New website casts light on human trafficking and MLB

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A new website calls attention to the issue of Major League Baseball’s policy towards human trafficking, highlighting the effort in the Florida Legislature to tie stadium funding to the fair treatment of Cuban players. reports on State Reps. Matt Gaetz and Jose Felix Diaz, who are calling for MLB facilities in the state—including the Tampa Bay Rays—to receive no further tax incentives unless the league begins to treat Cuban ball players “fairly and equitably.”

The issue came to light after reports of Los Angeles Dodgers Yasiel Puig‘s escape from the island nation.

Puig’s journey, first reported in Los Angeles Magazine, has all the makings of a Hollywood drama — Mexican drug cartels, death threats and orders to give 20 percent of his major league pay for safe passage from Cuba.

Gaetz and Diaz are asking the MLB to change its position on Cuban players, which are not in place for those coming from other nations. In an antiquated rule, the League does not deal directly with Cubans, asking prospective players to establish residency in a third country before signing on as a free agent — for significant amounts of money. Cubans coming to the U.S. would have to go through the draft process, for considerably less.

The rule creates a disincentive for Puig (and other Cuban athletes) to come directly to America, and turn to human smugglers and drug cartel financiers.

If passed, the law would withhold tax incentives until the MLB rules are changed, ending the unintended consequence of promoting human traffickers who prey on these baseball players.

The proposal, an amendment to Professional Sports Facilities Incentive Application Process (HB 7095), calls for:

  • Changes to the MLB practice so Cuban players are subject to the same rules and requirements as ballplayers from other countries
  • MLB agrees to report to Florida anyone the Major League Baseball believes is the victim of human smuggling

“Major League Baseball is inadvertently forcing players to make a deal with the devil,” Diaz told “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.”

MLB estimates that 224 of the 853 players on the current 25-man rosters and inactive lists were born outside of the United States, with 19 born in Cuba.

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

Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.