Georgia isn’t in line with the MLB’s values. But Cuba and China are?
Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred announced that “the best way to demonstrate our values as a sport is by relocating this year’s All-Star Game and MLB Draft” away from Atlanta. Apparently, Georgia’s new election law — whose net effect, The Washington Post’s Fact Checker blog found, “was to expand the opportunities to vote for most Georgians, not limit them” — was such a violation of baseball’s values that the exhibition game could not be played there.
But apparently it wasn’t a violation of baseball’s values to hold an exhibition game in 2016 in Havana between the Tampa Bay Rays and the Cuban national team. In an interview with ESPN during that game, Manfred exulted how Cuba is “a place where we would want to play regularly” and that “at a minimum” he’d like to start playing regular-season games in Havana, and eventually have an MLB team based on the Communist island. “Baseball could be significant in terms of driving the economy and development here in Cuba,” he said.
It didn’t seem to bother Manfred that Cuba has long been home to one of the world’s most brutal and repressive dictatorships. He pulled MLB out of Georgia because he said that baseball “opposes restrictions to the ballot box.” Well, according to the State Department’s human rights report released last month, “Cuba remains a one-party system in which the Communist Party is the only legal political party,” voting is “neither free nor fair nor competitive” and “specialized units of the [Ministry of Interior’s] state security branch are responsible for monitoring, infiltrating, and suppressing independent political activity.” The regime engages in “extrajudicial killings, by the government; forced disappearance by the government; torture and cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment of political dissidents, detainees, and prisoners by security forces; . . . [and] arbitrary arrests and detentions.”
Just two days before the 2016 game in Havana, hundreds of regime thugs attacked and arrested peaceful protesters known as the Ladies in White as they were leaving a Palm Sunday Mass. Ra√∫l Castro’s secret police pounced on the women as they chanted “Freedom! Freedom!” and “half-dragged, half-carried them to waiting buses,” The Post reported. As the women were arrested, an organized pro-regime crowd hurled insults and chanted “This is Fidel’s street!” Indeed, the Cuban regime carried out 526 political detentions in the first two weeks of March leading up to the game. But Manfred did not cancel the game in protest. Apparently playing baseball in the Castro family’s tropical gulag is perfectly consistent with baseball’s “values as a sport.”
What else is consistent with baseball’s values? The same week that MLB decided to leave Georgia, the league also announced a deal with Tencent, the Communist Party-linked Chinese telecommunications firm, to broadcast MLB All-Star Games as well as spring training, regular season and playoff games in Asia through 2023. In 2019, Tencent blocked the streaming of all NBA games featuring the Houston Rockets after the team’s general manager expressed support for pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong. Tencent is also the owner of the WeChat app, which is helping the Communist regime build a vast repository of data about Chinese citizens that the State Department said in 2019 forms “a foundation of technology-facilitated surveillance and social control.” So under Manfred’s leadership, Major League Baseball is willing to get in bed with a regime that brutally suppresses freedom in Hong Kong and carries out genocide against Uyghur Muslims — including the use of Uyghur slave labor and the systematic rape and forced sterilization of Uyghur women — but refuses to play an All-Star Game in Georgia.
“It’s at the height of hypocrisy,” Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, R, told me in an interview. “The whole position on China with Major League Baseball . . . but also with MLB and their ties to Cuba. I mean, it makes an average Georgian who really doesn’t pay attention to politics much wonder what are they thinking? Why are they punishing us, yet they are going to have relationship with China where there are no elections, or if they are, it’s already predetermined who the winner’s going to be?”
Manfred’s decision was taken from a pinnacle of near-perfect ignorance about the Georgia law, which actually expands early voting, mandates the use of drop boxes for the first time, and expands the forms of acceptable voter identification to include not just photo ID but a utility bill, a bank statement, a government check or paycheck, or even the last four digits of the voter’s Social Security number. These are far less stringent rules than some of those in Major League Baseball, which requires a photo ID to pick up will-call tickets.
But Manfred cannot plead ignorance when it comes to the human rights records of Communist China and Cuba. He is perfectly willing to punish the people of Georgia in a flagrant exercise of virtue signaling, while doing business with two of the most repressive totalitarian dictatorships on the face of the Earth.