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  • Writer's pictureRyan Lake

Trump Administration Scuttles MLB Deal That Would Stop Trafficking Of Cuban Players

Reuters has reported that more than 350 players have defected from Cuba since 2014. The mass exodus, along with the Obama administration’s effort to open relations with the island country, prompted MLB to develop a legal and safe path for Cuban players to play in the U.S.

MLB agreed to the deal in December 2018, after seeking reassurances from the Trump administration that the agreement would be legal under the administration’s renewed efforts to isolate the Cuban government.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row equal_height=”yes” content_placement=”middle”][vc_column][vc_column_text]The arrangement was very similar to deals MLB has with other foreign leagues. MLB has agreements with Nippon Professional Baseball, the Korea Baseball Organization and the Chinese Professional League.

After the deal was announced, Chicago White Sox first baseman José Abreu said: “Knowing that the next generation of Cuban baseball players will not endure the unimaginable fate of past Cuban players is the realization of an impossible dream for all of us. Dealing with the exploitation of smugglers and unscrupulous agencies will finally come to an end for the Cuban baseball player. To this date, I am still harassed.

“The next generation of Cuban baseball players will be able to sign an MLB contract while in Cuba, they will be able to keep their earnings as any other player in the world, they will be able to return to Cuba, they will be able to share with their families, and they will be able to play the sport they love against the best players in the world without fear and trepidation. Great day for Cuban baseball players.”

Under the deal, an MLB club signing a Cuban player would have paid the equivalent of 25% of the player’s signing bonus to the FCB as a transfer fee. According to the Trump administration, this would amount to an illegal payment to the Cuban government.

National Security Council spokesman Garrett Marquis said in a statement to CNN, “The U.S. does not support actions that would institutionalize a system by which a Cuban government entity garnishes the wages of hard-working athletes who simply seek to live and compete in a free society.”

Marquis added that the administration “looks forward [to] identify ways for Cuban players to have the individual freedom to benefit from their talents, and not as property of the Cuban State.”

The deal was designed to allow certain Cuban players under contract with the FCB to become eligible to sign with an MLB team. The agreement created two categories of players, those deemed “FCB Professional” players and those deemed “FCB Amateurs.”

FCB Professionals included players who met the MLB definition of a “Foreign Professional”: any player over the age of 25 who has played six or more years of professional ball. FCB Amateurs are players who are at least 18 years old.

Under the terms of the deal, the FCB was to release the names of FCB Professionals and Amateurs who wish to sign with an MLB club each off-season. A list of 34 FCB Amateurs was released two weeks ago.

If the Trump administration refuses to change course on this deal, the only hope left for Cuban players is that MLB and the administration can find an alternative path forward. It is clear that human trafficking cannot be allowed to continue and that players, regardless of their nationality, must be allowed to play and compete at the highest levels.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

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