The Trump administration is moving to end an agreement allowing Cuban baseball players to sign contracts directly with Major League Baseball clubs, a change that appears to require Cuban players to once again defect from the Communist nation before signing a major league deal.
Last year, 25 Cuban-born players played in at least one major league baseball game.
The Treasury Department told MLB attorneys in a letter Friday that it was reversing an Obama administration rule allowing the major leagues to pay the Cuban Baseball Federation a release fee equal to a percentage of each Cuban player’s signing bonus. In exchange, the Cuban federation had agreed to release all players aged 25 and older with at least six years of professional experience.
In the letter, which was made public Monday afternoon, the Treasury Department told MLB that the payments to the Cuban Baseball Federation constituted illegal business with the Cuban government. That reverses a ruling made by the Obama administration that said the federation was not part of the Cuban government.
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“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,” National Security Council spokesman Garrett Marquis said in a statement. “The Administration looks forward to working 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.”
Major League Baseball had no immediate comment on the letter, which came days after the Cuban federation released a list of 34 players authorized to sign with major league clubs.
Fox News’ John Roberts and The Associated Press contributed to this report.