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Castro is Gone, Trump Takes Office. What Does That Mean for Sports?

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FILE - In this Feb. 5, 1946 file photo, Dick Sisler watches his hit during a winter baseball league game in Havana, Cuba. Sisler, the son of the all time great first baseman George Sisler, was the new batting sensation who was headed for his first major league with the St. Louis Cardinals. Photo: AP file photo

Cuba was supposed to be the next frontier for both Major League Baseball and the National Basketball Association in the two sports’ global outreach. Major League Baseball did visit Havana during the 2016 Spring Training schedule and the NBA send personnel to the island-country for a clinic. But November events may have changed the plans with Donald Trump’s win and the death of Cuba’s leader Fidel Castro.

At this point, it is anybody’s guess what the future will bring in the American-Cuban relationship. Cuba’s major sport is baseball, basketball was once wildly popular in the country. Sports have been used as a tool to improve political relationships.

In the mid-1950s during the Cold War, President Dwight Eisenhower was looking for an opening that could improve the relationship between the Soviet Union and the United States. One of the ways Eisenhower thought that could happen was through sports and the United States sent an amateur hockey team to play the Soviets in Moscow. It was a nice try but ultimately failed.

Eisenhower’s Vice President at the time, Richard Nixon, would be much more successful in mending old wounds between two battling countries – the US and China – in 1972 when he went to Beijing and met with Communist Party Chairman Mao Tse Tung. A year earlier, the US Table Tennis team was invited to China and it probably was that series of matches between the Americans and Chinese that helped thaw the US-China relationship.

The United States and Cuba have had almost no relationship from 1961 through 2016 as the US under President John F. Kennedy broke off diplomatic ties and placed Cuba on an economic embargo. When Castro overthrew the Batista government, Havana had a minor league team in Triple A baseball’s International League.

Major League Baseball would love to set up shop in some way again in Cuba but politics may get in the way.

By Evan Weiner For The Politics Of Sports Business

This article was republished with permission from the original publisher, Evan Weiner.

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