Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game was never supposed to be political. It was designed as a casual gathering of the league’s best players to showcase their best skills. That all changed of course when the MLB decided to move the game out of Atlanta over Democrat calls to boycott the state over Georgia’s new voting law. The decision was rash, illiterate to the text of the law and based mostly on tweets and half-truths from popular celebrity Democrats like Stacey Abrams, along with Georgia senators, who later backtracked.
When the MLB changed its mind, it transformed itself into a political league and its All-Star Game into a political lightning rod. Therefore the league has no excuse for dodging the political issues of the day. 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.
But the MLB itself remained quiet on Cuba, despite the game’s close ties with Cuban players — President Barack Obama famously attended a game with Raúl Castro in March 2016. Currently there are 34 players of Cuban nationality in Major League Baseball, second only to the Dominican Republic in terms of Latin American representation. There was no display of the Cuban flag or backing from the league for the Cuban people protesting a little more than the ability to mail in a vote without an ID. There was no message of support for the Cuban people over the stadium PA system.
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.
The MLB had a chance to rescue its battered image from moving the All-Star Game by offering even the slightest gesture of support for both its Cuban players, who risked their own lives in defecting to the United States where they live, grow and play professionally and free, and the Cuban people currently risking their lives to depose a brutal 60-year-old communist regime. But the MLB failed to do so on both accounts. Patria Y Vida.