Reps. Gaetz and Diaz Propose Law to Stop Human Traffickers from Exploiting Baseball Players from Cuba

Major League Baseball 'Forcing Players to Make Deal With the Devil'

April 22, 2014


TALLAHASSEE, FL – Florida Reps. Matt Gaetz and Jose Felix Diaz today said Major League Baseball (MLB) facilities in the state should receive no new tax incentives unless League rules treat Cuban ball players fairly and equitably. The bold move by Gaetz and Diaz calls on MLB to repeal an outmoded policy that unfairly places additional barriers to the majors for Cuban players that are not in place for those from other nations. The proposed legislation would thwart human traffickers who prey on these baseball players.

The lawmakers are seeking to protect Cuban ballplayers after reports detailed a Los Angeles Dodgers star's escape from the island. Yasiel Puig's harrowing journey, first reported by Los Angeles Magazine, reportedly involved a Mexican drug cartel, death threats and demands for 20 percent of his major league salary in exchange for getting Puig out of Cuba.

Reps. Gaetz (R-Fort Walton Beach) and Diaz (R-Miami) said an antiquated rule established by Major League Baseball is to blame. The rule has the unintended effect of enticing talented Cuban ballplayers to first establish residency in another country rather than come directly to the United States.

If Puig had come to freedom in America first, the MLB policy would have forced him to wait and then be placed in the Major League draft. But because the star outfielder established residency in another country first, he was allowed to sign as a free agent and earn significantly more money.

"Major League Baseball is inadvertently forcing players to make a deal with the devil," Diaz said. "It is time for Major League Baseball to treat Cuban players the same way they treat a player from the Dominican Republic, Venezuela or Mexico. For me this is simply a matter of equity and fairness under the law."

This disincentive to come directly to America led Puig – apparently like many other Cuban athletes – to turn to human smugglers and their drug cartel financiers for help.

"Major League Baseball's rule punishes Cuban ballplayers by forcing them into the arms of human traffickers," Gaetz said. "The taxpayers of Florida should no longer subsidize human smuggling."

According to Major League Baseball, 224 of the 853 players on 2014 Opening Day 25-man rosters and inactive lists were born outside of the 50 United States. Of those players, 19 were born in Cuba.

Design by sachsmedia.com, data courtesy of MLB.com

Gaetz noted that players from Cuba are the only ones subject to the current restriction.

"Major League Baseball is inadvertently forcing players to make a deal with the devil," Diaz said. "It is time for Major League Baseball to treat Cuban players the same way they treat a player from the Dominican Republic, Venezuela or Mexico. For me this is simply a matter of equity and fairness under the law."

Under the proposal from Gaetz and Diaz, a baseball franchise could not receive tax incentives unless Major League Baseball:

  • 1) Changes its rule so Cuban players are subject to the same rules and requirements as ballplayers from other countries; and

  • 2) Agrees to report to the state the identity of anyone in Florida that Major League Baseball believes is involved in human smuggling.

The Gaetz-Diaz proposal would amend CS/HB 7095, legislation related to the Professional Sports Facilities Incentive Application Process.

"Florida should not stand idle as baseball players are exploited by the Castro Brothers and international drug cartels," Diaz said. "We are making a request of Major League Baseball: Treat Cuban major league prospects the same as players from other countries. Whatever system MLB crafts must treat Cubans equally. It is that simple."
"We want to ensure that those exceptional Cuban athletes that come to the United States aren't treated differently and inequitably. We want to make sure they're not treated any worse than any other player from any other country that would want to come and enjoy freedom and enjoy baseball in the United States."

"I'm from Northwest Florida but where I come from people have a very deep connection to liberty and fairness and when we see people that are dreaming of liberty and economic freedom being treated so badly by being forced to go to other countries just to be able to negotiate for a baseball contract, it offends all of our senses of fairness and equity."


NOTE: Reps. Gaetz and Diaz are available to discuss their proposal with media. Request an interview by filling out the form here.