Last week waves were made when Cuba announced that it would allow athletes to compete in foreign professional leagues. Many of our first reactions were along the lines of “Awesome! Now ballplayers won’t have to risk their lives and families to play here! They can come and go! It’s the best of both worlds!”
Except it’s not. At least not for them playing in the United States. Because, as The Economist reminds us today, the rules Cuba announced — allowing athletes to play in foreign leagues as long as they pay taxes to Cuba — would lead to a violation of the United States’ embargo on Cuba if the players were on U.S. teams:
The United States’ trade embargo bans any transaction that would fund the Castros’ government. As a result, the requirement that Cuban athletes playing abroad pay local taxes on their income would prevent MLB clubs from signing players who plan to comply. Only outright defectors would be cleared to suit up.
They could play in Japan. Or in Mexico’s summer league. But not in the U.S. At least not unless they defected like they currently do. Any player wanting to walk the straight and narrow under Cuban law, maintaining his home there and place on the Cuban national team, would be better served avoiding the U.S. majors.
Maybe the top of the top — the guys who could command deals only U.S. teams could afford — will still come here. But it will be via defection, same as it is now. And the idea that more borderline, Triple-A types would come here is hard to see given that they’d have a much easier time of it in Japan or Mexico or someplace else.
Which, while not a top-5 reason to support the repeal of the embargo on Cuba, is yet another reason why it’s pretty stupid in this day and age.