Documents sought to determine if event was cancelled because of presumed political views of the baseball players or fears of possible demonstrations
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: August 2, 2013
CONTACT: ACLU of Florida Media Office, (786) 363 - 2737 firstname.lastname@example.org
MIAMI - The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Florida is seeking records to determine whether the cancellation of a scheduled reunion of former players from a Cuban baseball team at the Florida International University (FIU) Baseball Stadium violates the First Amendment rights of the players, sponsors and ticketholders.
In a public records request submitted to FIU on Thursday, August 1st, the ACLU requested all documents related to a contract between FIU and the group who was scheduled to use the stadium to host the reunion games, as well as records of meetings between FIU employees and representatives from “Vigilia Mambisa,” an anti-Castro group.
“We have troubling evidence that Florida International University cancelled the contract for the event based on expectations about political speech or fears about hostile reaction from some community groups which may or may not occur,” stated Maria Kayanan, Associate Legal Director of the ACLU of Florida. “Government entities, including public universities, can’t silence expression based on content or feared content – that’s a violation of the First Amendment rights which protect all Americans. We are trying to find out if that’s what happened at FIU.”
The scheduled reunion event celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Cuban amateur baseball team “Los Industriales” and would have consisted of two baseball games played at FIU’s baseball stadium on August 10th and 11th featuring former players currently living in Cuba or the United States. The Cuban players are all retired, the eldest being 75 years old, and the Cuban-American players include former Major Leaguers such as Orlando “El Duque” Hernandez and Rey Ordóñez. More than just baseball games, the planners of the event state that the reunion was intended to be a celebration that transcended the social and political and honored the shared Cuban heritage and baseball experience of the players and participants.
A contract between the Somos Cuba Entertainment Group and the university was entered on July 10th for the use of the stadium for the reunion, but less than a week later the university cancelled the contract.
At a press conference following the cancellation, a representative from “Vigilia Mambisa” stated that they had met and spoken with officials at FIU, and that they had “won a fight against Castro supporters,” in getting the contract cancelled because of the perceived pro-Castro viewpoints of players and organizers and that the group doesn’t permit “this type of cultural exchange.”
A copy of the public records request submitted via email by the ACLU is available here: http://aclufl.org/resources/records-request-fiu-cuban-baseball-reunion/