MIAMI, FLORIDA — Censorship of anti-communism protests at Sunday’s World Baseball Classic semifinal between the U.S. and Cuba triggered fiery responses from Florida Republicans, including U.S. Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Rick Scott (R-FL).
Political statements dominated the game at the Miami Marlins’ LoanDepot Park. The taxpayer-funded ballpark sits in Miami’s Little Havana neighborhood – named after Cuba’s capital city.
Prior to the game, hundreds of Cuban-American protesters gathered outside the stadium to protest the team for its representation of their native country’s communist government. A video showing security denying entry to a fan wearing an anti-communist t-shirt prompted a wave of responses on social media.
Rubio aired his grievances with the political censorship in a video posted on Twitter.
“Just imagine that: a taxpayer funded stadium … and Americans are not allowed to take in t-shirts or flags or signs – not that have profanity, I agree with that [being banned] – but flags and signs that have messages that the Cuban regime finds offensive,” Rubio said.
“It is outrageous, it’s disgusting, it’s grotesque. I hope it isn’t true and I hope it’s being corrected,” he added.
Scott fired off his own series of tweets criticizing Major League Baseball (MLB), writing: “It's a travesty to watch the @MLB roll out the red carpet for evil thugs like Maduro, Castro & Díaz-Canel to spread political propaganda in Little Havana. They should be ashamed of siding with human rights abusers over the freedom activists persecuted by these evil thugs.”
In the days leading up to the matchup, the World Baseball Classic reportedly wanted to prohibit entry for anyone visibly carrying or wearing politically charged messages.
Miami Mayor Francis Suarez, who had promised fans they would not be prevented from making any lawful protests, said the man in the video should not have been turned away.
Suarez responded, writing (in Spanish): “I saw it... and I called the @Marlins who told me that it was a mistake to deny the person with the shirt that said homeland and life... they told me that they are not leaving banners with homeland and life but they are leaving shirts. An absurd distinction when they told me something different at first.”
State Senator Ileana Garcia called out MLB for allowing players to wear Black Lives Matter shirts.
“VIVA CUBA LIBRE!”
While some fans faced censorship from the stadium security staff, many spectators managed to bring signs into the stadium. Once inside, they led chants of “Patria Y Vida,” which means “homeland and life.” The slogan counters Cuban dictator Fidel Castro’s infamous motto used to threaten dissidents: “homeland or death.”
Three protesters were removed from the ballpark after they ran onto the field, according to AP.
“The biggest lack of respect to this country that has opened up its doors for us,” one protester told the outlet. “They claim to be fleeing a dictatorship, and this country gave them an opportunity. Gave them everything, and now they want to play for the same team that suppressed them. They’re laughing at the United States by doing that.”
Popular Cuban-American rapper Ovi made his statement visible to those watching at home by standing behind home plate in view of the television cameras. Another man took his stand nearby wearing a shirt rejecting communist guerrilla leader Che Guevara.
From his front row seat, Ovi held up a sign with the words “Abajo el Comunismo! Abajo la Dictadura! Viva Cuba Libre!” which in English translates to: “Down with communism! down with the dictatorship! Long Live free Cuba!”