US Tries to Mix Politics and Sports at WBC
Fans interested in seeing the “mystery” Cuban team play Major League quality baseball were enjoying the island’s superb pitching and solid hitting on Thursday when provocateurs, supported by Washington and its Puerto Rican authorities, tried to put a damper on the game.
This is not the first time that anti-Cuban groups have tried to spoil a purely sporting event. In fact, it has been a common occurrence for nearly half a century.
While the Cuban team battered the Netherlands in a 11-2 runaway and earned its passage to the second round of the World Baseball Classic, fans and sports writers deplored the staged provocation.
Even Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association, which co-sponsor the Classic, had hoped politics had been left behind after the Bush administration went back on its initial banning of the Cuban team from participating on US soil, including its Puerto Rican seudo-colony.
Puerto Rican baseball officials, taking an independent stance, had threatened not to host the opening rounds of the tournament if the Olympic and World Cup Champion Cuban team, the biggest attraction, was not allowed to play.
By allowing the anti-Cuba sign to be continually exhibited directly behind home plate, it is obvious that the police and security authorities were supporting the slanderous publicity stunt. In fact, they even placed police agents alongside the provocateurs to protect them from others who disapprove of the attempt to smear Cuba thus mixing politics with sports.
Adalberto Mercado, security commissioner of the Puerto Rican capital responded to a protest from the Cuban sports delegation by saying, “We explained that here in Puerto Rico freedom of expression is allowed whenever it doesn’t violate the law,” reported Primera Hora newspaper.
While most sports fans oppose spoiling an exciting baseball tournament with a war of political slurs or aggressions, several observers asked what would have happened if the sign had been one against the US government or its war in Iraq. Would the US and Puerto Rican authorities have permitted it to be shown for over an hour on ESPN?
Despite being dominated by US federal officials and laws for over a century, there is much support in Puerto Rico for Cuba’s right to self determination and sovereignty. Tonight’s game between the two Pool C qualifiers is a sell out and sports fans hope measures are taken so that people can enjoy a good ball game.