Rubio Rips MLB Commish for League's China, Cuba Ties

Baseball commissioner also touts membership at elite Georgia golf club even after MLB's Georgia boycott

Sen. Marco Rubio
Sen. Marco Rubio / Getty Images
April 5, 2021

Sen. Marco Rubio (R., Fla.) excoriated Major League Baseball commissioner Robert Manfred on Monday for his league’s ties to authoritarian regimes in Cuba and China, after the MLB All-Star Game was relocated from Atlanta in opposition to a voting bill.

The Florida senator said Manfred's decision to move the MLB All-Star Game "reeks of hypocrisy," as the baseball league maintains lucrative relationships with Chinese Communist Party-backed businesses and had partnerships with autocrats in Cuba. Manfred announced Friday the MLB would be moving the All-Star Game and MLB Draft away from Atlanta after critics of a Georgia voting law said it would limit minority voting rights.

"Last week, you 'decided that the best way to demonstrate our values as a sport is by relocating this year’s All-Star Game' from Atlanta because of Georgia’s revised election law," Rubio said in a letter to the commissioner, quoting from the MLB's statement. "It is a decision that will have a bigger impact on countless small and minority owned businesses in and around Atlanta, than the new election law ever will. And one that reeks of hypocrisy."

Major League Baseball has a streaming deal with Tencent, a Chinese tech supergiant accused of leading a large-scale crackdown on political freedom in China, including the freedoms of Uighur Muslims. The league also inked deals with the Castro regime in Cuba, allowing an exhibition game between the Cuban national team and Tampa Bay Rays in 2016, as well as an agreement allowing Cuban baseball players to sign with MLB teams without defecting from their home country. The Trump administration axed these deals with Cuba in 2019, saying they rewarded a rogue state for bad behavior.

Rubio also pressed Manfred to go further and cancel his membership at an "exclusive members-only" Georgia country club in protest of the state's allegedly restrictive election law. Manfred is a member of the Augusta National Golf Club, where the Masters tournament is played annually and initial membership fees cost $40,000.

"In the end, as a citizen of a free nation you, and Major League Baseball, have the right to speak out against laws in the U.S. you disagree with, even if it is on the basis of false information," Rubio said. "I am under no illusion that Major League Baseball will sacrifice business revenue on behalf of its alleged corporate values. Similarly, I am under no illusion you intend to resign as a member from Augusta National Golf Club. To do so would require a personal sacrifice, as opposed to the woke corporate virtue signaling of moving the All Star Game from Atlanta."

The letter comes days after Rubio called Georgia-based companies Delta Air Lines and Coca-Cola "woke corporate hypocrites" for conducting business with China while protesting election laws within Georgia.