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MLB Moves Puerto Rico Series Amid Zika Fears

By Christopher Coble, Esq. on May 11, 2016 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Major League Baseball was all set to have the Pittsburgh Pirates and Miami Marlins play in Puerto Rico on May 30 and 31, but enough players were concerned about contracting and transmitting the Zika virus that the league will move the series to Miami instead. The Centers for Disease Control had listed Puerto Rico as an area with active mosquito-borne transmission of the Zika virus.

So what does this mean for the league, legal liability, and future games in the Caribbean?

Viral Concerns

Puerto Rico has 785 confirmed Zika cases and one death from the virus, and the CDC had met with players and staff from both teams regarding the potential risks of contracting and transmitting Zika. MLB and the union cited player concerns over the virus in Commissioner Rob Manfred's decision to relocate the series:

"...players who objected to the trip because of their specific family situations should not be forced to travel to Puerto Rico. Because too many regulars on both clubs fell into that category, Commissioner Manfred had no choice but to relocate the games."

While Zika effects are normally mild, with symptoms only lasting for about a week after infection, they can be catastrophic for pregnant women, causing serious birth defects including microcephaly. Forcing players to travel to Puerto Rico and exposing them to Zika could have created additional legal liability for the league.

Puerto Rican Concerns

Marlins manager Don Mattingly seemed fine with the decision: "You trust the process that the union and the league is going to do what's best for everyone and make sure they take care of everyone." But not everyone agreed. Luis Clemente, son of Puerto Rican legend Roberto Clemente, told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review people were "very disillusioned over the decision," adding, "[w]e need to have a conversation to fully understand what happened."

Puerto Rican-born Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina also tweeted his displeasure:

ESPN is reporting that MLB and the players union will make charitable contributions to help battle the spread of Zika in Puerto Rico, and that "several former players plan to hold youth clinics and events on the island later this month."

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