ACLU still investigating if FIU cancelled previous event in violation of First Amendment rights of participants and baseball fans or fear of possible demonstrations
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: August 29, 2013
CONTACT: ACLU of Florida Media Office, (786) 363 – 2737 firstname.lastname@example.org
FORT LAUDERDALE, FL – A reunion of former baseball players from a Cuban baseball team which was cancelled by Florida International University (FIU) is scheduled to take place this Saturday at Fort Lauderdale Stadium at 11:00AM.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Florida has been investigating troubling evidence that FIU cancelled the games, which were to be held at FIU’s baseball stadium on August 10th and 11th, based on fear of anticipated hostile reaction from some community groups. Specifically, in a statement to press following the cancellation, a representative from Miami-based anti-Castro protest group “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 FIU officials to cancel the contract.
The baseball players’ reunion celebrates the 50th anniversary of Havana’s baseball team “Los Industriales,” and will consist of a double-header featuring former players currently living in Cuba and those who had played in Cuba but left Cuba for the United States. The event is intended as a symbolic reunion of those who left Cuba, and those who had stayed. The sponsors hoped that it would create future chances of reunions between families and friends now separated by the harsh travel restrictions between the United States and Cuba.
The controversy is the most recent incident in which government entities in Miami-Dade County have used their power to attempt to ban from Miami Cuban musicians, artists, and performers. Previous incidents have included the cancellation of art displays, Cuban music performances (including the popular Cuban group Los Van Van) and even the removal of a children’s book series from Miami-Dade schools because of perceived “soft-on-Castro” viewpoints of the various artists, performers and authors.
“Whether it is with artists, musicians, children’s books or now baseball players, leaders in Miami-Dade have been making the same mistake over and over again,” stated Howard Simon, Executive Director of the ACLU of Florida. “You do not grow freedom in Havana by making war on the First Amendment in Miami. The response to expression you disagree with isn’t to use government to crush the rights of others, but to use your own right to speak out. The ACLU supports the right of the protestors who will almost certainly be at Fort Lauderdale stadium to peaceably demonstrate. That’s the freedom which so many people – including many of those participating in Saturday’s game – have come to America to enjoy.”
After the original event’s cancellation, its organizers began seeking other venues and the ACLU of Florida began investigating the reason for the cancellation. Because FIU is a state university, the First Amendment prohibits the university from curtailing expression to avoid protests and an adverse reaction.
“We’re glad that we were able to help the organizers find another place to have their reunion, and that the players and spectators will be able to enjoy the games, but that resolution doesn’t close the door on the question of why FIU cancelled its contract, “ continued Simon. “It’s unfortunate that something as simple as a baseball game is too controversial for Miami, but is perfectly acceptable across the county line. The idea that government entities can ban an event because they perceive it too politically unpopular is exactly the kind of government oppression from which people crossing the Florida straits have fled.”
The ACLU submitted two public records requests to FIU seeking information about the cancellation. The first, submitted on August 1st, 2013 requested documents related to the cancellation of a July 2013 contract between FIU and Somos Cuba Entertainment Group which allowed for the baseball games to be played at FIU’s stadium on August 10th and 11th of 2013. The second, sent to FIU’s general counsel on Monday, August 12th, stated that the documents provided to the ACLU after the first request were “spectacularly uninformative,” and requested additional information to determine the motivation for the cancellation of the contract. The ACLU is continuing to review documents and intends to pursue additional public records until FIU reveals the true reason for the cancellation, and not an after-the fact pre-textual rationalization.
“The misguided decision by FIU to cancel the contract for a reunion of Cuban baseball players does not reflect how much Miami has changed – politically and generationally,” observed John DeLeon, a member of the Greater Miami Chapter Board of Directors. “Denying a venue for a reunion of old friends and teammates from Los Industriales– some residing in Cuba, and others who have relocated to the United States – will do nothing to hasten an end to the Castro Regime.”
Los Industriales 50th Anniversary in Miami
Saturday, August 31 11:00AM
Fort Lauderdale Stadium
1401 NW 55th Street
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33309
More information about the ACLU’s investigation into the original game’s cancellation is available here: http://aclufl.org/?p=4243