The Trump administration has canceled a four-month old deal that would allow Cuban baseball players to join Major League Baseball in the United States without having to defect.
The administration says it is canceling the deal because the Cuban Baseball Federation is part of the Cuban government and trade with that government is illegal.
The move reverses an Obama-era ruling that said the Cuban government doesn’t run the island’s professional baseball league. That position gave MLB space to negotiate and reach the deal with Cuban baseball and circumvent the U.S. embargo against Cuba.
The Obama administration said the deal was intended to allow Cuban players to play in the U.S. without having to make the risky attempt to leave Cuba without official permission or give up their Cuban citizenship to play here.
The move comes less than two weeks after the start of the 2019 baseball season, and just days after the federation released the names of 34 Cuban players it said were eligible to sign with Major League Baseball. Some of those players were expected to be signed and playing this year.