Trump administration moves to stop MLB's historic deal with Cuba

10 April, 2019, 10:26 | Author: Denise Dawson
  • Trump administration cancels MLB deal with Cuba

The existing deal will not be allowed to go forward because it was based on an erroneous ruling by the former Obama administration that the Cuban Baseball Federation was not part of Cuba's Communist government, a senior US official said.

The MLB also stood firm with vice-president Michael Teevan saying: "We stand by the goal of the agreement, which is to end the human trafficking of baseball players from Cuba".

The move means danger for Cuban baseball players hoping to make it to the big leagues.

While such unsafe escapes were mostly eliminated with greater travel freedoms, players still needed to cut ties with Cuban baseball and often their families and hometowns, going years without returning after signing with the major leagues.

US law prohibits virtually all payments to the Cuban government under the 60-year embargo on the island but MLB argued that the Cuban Baseball Federation, which oversees all aspects of the sport on the island, was not formally a part of the Cuban state.

Last week, Cuba's baseball league said 34 players would be eligible to sign contracts directly with US teams.

Chapman defected from Cuba in 2009 while with the Cuban national baseball team in Rotterdam, Netherlands, and signed with the Reds in 2010.

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Cuban players older than age 25 and with six years of service in the Cuban league would have been free to sign with MLB teams. In this case, though, the dollars were destined not for a foreign ballclub, but for Cuba's government-run governing body, the aforementioned Cuban Baseball Federation. Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, in December, called the deal "both illegal and immoral".

While such unsafe escapes were mostly eliminated with greater travel freedoms, players still needed to cut ties with Cuban baseball and often their families and hometowns, going years without returning after signing with the major leagues.

The 2019 Major League Baseball season is two weeks old and more than a few Cuban players were expected to be signed for the ongoing campaign.

The 25 per-cent release fee that teams would pay to Cuban clubs as part of the agreement was tantamount to "human trafficking", a senior government official told the Washington Post.

The most notable name in Cuba right now would be Yoelquis Cespedes, the younger brother of Met's OF Yoenis Cespedes, but the worldwide free agent market is a hotbed for teams to find value and the stock of these athletes is constantly changing. If players establish residence in a third country, they can petition OFAC to receive a specific license that would allow them to play in the U.S. An earlier try in 2008 was foiled, and Chapman was kept off Cuba's team in the 2008 Olympics.

This is a major blow not just for fans who embrace the global nature of the game, but most of all for the Cuban athletes themselves, who face very real threats to their lives, livelihoods, and families if and when they choose to face the dangers of escaping Cuba - often extrajudicially - and negotiating passage to America.

The deal, which was initially negotiated under President Barack Obama, met with immediate opposition from the Trump administration.

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