Cuba announced Friday that its athletes will be allowed to sign contracts to compete in foreign leagues, a shift from decades of policy that held professional sports to be anathema to socialist ideals.
The measure promises to increase the amount of money baseball players and others are able to earn, and seems geared toward stemming a continuing wave of defections by athletes who are lured abroad by the possibility of lucrative contracts, sapping talent from national squads.
However, there is a lot of unanswered questions. Will the US government allow Cuban baseball players (or other athletes) to play in the U.S. Major Leagues without restrictions imposed by local or U.S. government policies.
Apparently, Cuban athletes will have to pay taxes on any earnings from foreign clubs, and the 51-year-old U.S. embargo outlaws nearly all American transactions with the Cuban government.
According to published articles here is the USA’s response: “[a] change in Cuban laws does not affect our licensing procedure,” said John Sullivan, spokesman for the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, which enforces limits on transferring money to Cuba.
Also, Cuban athletes will only be eligible to play abroad as long as they fulfill their commitments at home, according to the Communist Party newspaper Granma.
A number of athletes, especially baseball players, have defected in recent months and years. They include Yasiel Puig, who signed a multimillion-dollar contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Professional sports were outlawed under Fidel Castro in 1961, two years after the Cuban Revolution.
It’s not clear what athletes were paid before, but monthly state salaries in Cuba average about $20 plus the social benefits provided to all islanders.