U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio says Major League Baseball can end the dangerous practice of Cuban athletes being trafficked through third-party countries by changing its own rules — and without dealing with the Cuban government.
Rubio wrote on Twitter Saturday the major reason baseball players undergo such travel risks stems from a requirement athletes establish “fake” residency in a country other than Cuba before signing a contract with an American ball club.
“Instead of getting rid of this rule, they choose to pay ransom to the regime with a portion of the players salary,” Rubio said.
Rubio immediately came out against a deal announced Dec. 19 between MLB and the Cuban Baseball Federation that would allow Cuban players over age 25 and with six years of professional ball experience to be released to play in the U.S. league.
The Republican senator joined with U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart and incoming U.S. Sen. Rick Scott in calling for President Donald Trump’s administration to block the deal.
At that time, Rubio said players should be allowed to negotiate their own contracts and that the arrangement with the CBF forced players to cede their rights to the Cuban regime.
MLB officials have pushed back on political criticism, saying the arrangement would eliminate the risks athletes take to flee Cuba for a chance to play American baseball.
“We are surprised that some politicians oppose an agreement that is designed to end human trafficking, that our players who were victims of human trafficking support, and that provides no economic benefit to MLB,” reads a league statement released to media Friday.
“The alternative to entering into the agreement is allow the current system in which players are trafficked to continue, and that was not an alternative acceptable to MLB and the Players Association.”
One issue between MLB and Rubio remains whether the CBF should be treated as an independent entity of the Cuban government.
In 2016, as President Barack Obama sought to normalize relations with Cuba, the federal government recognized the federation as an organization with which American businesses could negotiate independently.
Rubio has maintained the sports organization remains part of a hostile regime hurting its own people, and that would include taking pay from MLB athletes playing in the U.S. under the new deal.
MLB officials say they negotiated the arrangement with CBF over the course of three years.