Jesse Yomtov and John Fritze, USA TODAY
Published 4:51 p.m. ET April 8, 2019 | Updated 8:02 p.m. ET April 8, 2019The Trump administration canceled a deal between Major League Baseball and the Cuban Baseball Federation that would have made it easier for Cuban players to come play in the United States, an administration official told USA TODAY.The official, who requested anonymity, said the move would make it more difficult for Cuban players to sign with MLB, though the immediate details of its impact were unclear.In December, MLB and the players association reached an agreement with Cuba’s baseball federation to allow players from the island to be scouted and signed by the league without having to defect. The agreement was based on a decision from the Obama administration that allowed the Cuban baseball federation to be considered separate from the Cuban government.  Under the agreement, the players could receive 100 percent of a signing bonus, but the signing team would pay a posting fee to the Cuban federation. This would have been similar to the system that is currently in place for players coming to MLB from Japan.The Trump administration argues that the country’s baseball federation is actually part of the Cuban government, making the business illegal under current law.Critics of the agreement, notably Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, feel that the posting fee going to the federation amounts to paying the Cuban government ransom for baseball players.”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,” said Garrett Marquis, a National Security Council spokesman.Marquis said the administration will work with MLB “to identify ways for Cuban players to have the individual freedom to benefit from their talents, and not as property of the Cuban State.”For decades, Cuban players have risked their lives escaping from their homeland to destinations like Mexico, Haiti or the Dominican Republic, where they could establish residency.”We stand by the goal of the agreement, which is to end the human trafficking of baseball players from Cuba,” MLB said in a statement Monday.In a tweet retweeted by the Cuban Embassy, the baseball federation said that “attacks with political motivation against the agreement harm the athletes, their families and the fans.”The agreement with #MLB seeks to stop the trafficking of human beings, encourage cooperation and raise the level of baseball. Any contrary idea is false news. Attacks with political motivation against the agreement achieved harm the athletes, their families and the fans pic.twitter.com/7d3Feu26kB— Federación Cubana de Béisbol (@CubanaBeisbol) April 8, 2019Earlier in April, the Cuban federation announced the first list of 34 players who would be authorized to sign with MLB clubs.AutoplayShow ThumbnailsShow CaptionsLast SlideNext Slide
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