There are currently 34 players of Cuban nationality on Major League baseball teams. Six Cuban players grace the roster of my Chicago White Sox, including last year’s Most Valuable Player, Jose Abreu. Some of the finest players in the sport are Cuban, with many more prospects in the minor leagues.
But at last night’s showcase, the All-Star Game, nary a word of support was given by the league or any of the teams. It was left to the Cuban players to make their feelings known.
Aroldis Chapman who represented the New York Yankees at the All-Star Game certainly didn’t shy away from a hot-button issue: the ongoing protests in Cuba, about which social and sporting institutions have remained mostly silent. Chapman did not, writing ‘SOS Cuba’ and ‘Patria Y Vida’ on his game hat. ‘SOS Cuba’ is a slogan being used by Cuban protesters on social media, who are risking their lives by doing so. ‘Patria Y Vida’ means ‘Homeland and Life’, a direct affront to the Communist government of Cuba’s own slogan ‘Homeland or Death’. Chapman was joined by Texas Rangers outfielder Adolis Garcia in the same gesture. Garcia himself is a Cuban defector.
“It’s the first time that I know of in my 33 years,” Chapman said to Our Esquina during batting practice before the All-Star Game. “It’s good that this has happened for the people to rise up. The courage to go out to the streets, that has never happened. That is good.”
“It’s an event for me because the whole world sees it,” Chapman said about the decision to wear the shirt. “I’m sending a clear message to the whole world so they know what’s happening in my country.”
Good thing they’re not relying on MLB to get the message out.
What makes MLB’s silence even worse is their reaction to the passage of the Georgia voting reform law last spring. The venue for the All-Star Classic was moved from Atlanta, and the league made a show of how woke it is. The nonsensical idea that the league is “nonpolitical” doesn’t even pass the smell test.
The counter argument here of course is that the MLB should be not be expected to weigh in on every political hot-button issue. Apologies to the uninitiated, but it no longer works that way. The MLB decided its own fate and has earned the criticism for using its support, players and corporate sponsors to put its finger on the political scale. Major League Baseball has far closer ties to the Cuban people than they do Georgia’s voting act — and they can no longer pick and choose their battles when it comes to their own declaration of human rights abuses.
It remains to be seen what happens when the season picks up again on Friday as far as the reaction of Cuban players who, not surprisingly, have been a fairly apolitical bunch since many of them arrived in America. They needed to get permission from the Communist government to play and they kick back some of their salary for the privilege.
Nevertheless, it appears that the gloves are coming off and the Cuban players will join the protests.
“I want to send a greeting and a hug to my Cuban brothers who are fighting for their freedom,” Cincinnati Reds pitcher Cionel Pérez said on Instagram. “Enough of the oppressions; we want freedom and that’s the message we want to send to (Cuban President Miguel) Díaz-Canel.”
Several, like the Toronto Blue Jays’ Lourdes Gurriel Jr. and the Houston Astros’ Yulieski Gurriel, have used Twitter or Instagram to post messages or share videos to lend their support.
In 2012, Venezuelan-born manager of the Florida Marlins Ozzie Guillen offered praise for Castro, saying that he loved him. MLB promptly suspended Guillen for 5 games. Now, when Cubans rally for freedom, Major League Baseball may as well be an arm of the Communist Cuban government’s propaganda operation.
This is one of those questions that you can’t straddle. And MLB is siding with tyranny and against freedom.