Jose Fuentes, Chairman of the Puerto Rico Statehood Council, called on ESPN for an apology for their politicized coverage of Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez, Baseball Hall of Fame member recently named to the Puerto Rico Statehood Council.
“Mr. Rojas’ disparagement of pro-statehood American citizens of Puerto Rico has no place in public discourse, and certainly not in sports coverage,” said Fuentes in a press release.
ESPN reporter Enrique Rojas asked a startled Rodriguez how he felt about being “the last Puerto Rican” in baseball. Rojas explained what he meant in a column called, “Pudge Rodríguez: The Last Puerto Rican In Cooperstown?”
The veteran catcher Ivan Rodríguez, who is part of the Class of 2017 of the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, could be the last Puerto Rican to enter baseball’s most sacred quarter in the United States.
This would happen if the intent of a political group on the island which seeks to convert Puerto Rico into the 51st state of the United States comes to fruition. Rodríguez is a member of a commission created by the Puerto Rican government to promote the idea of ‘statehood’ before the United States Congress. (This is) a plan that would basically obliterate the concept of “Puerto Rican” as we currently know it.
“Puerto Rican,” like “Floridian,” “Hawaiian,” and “Washingtonian,” is a term describing U.S. citizens living in a specific geographic area of or belonging to the United States.
Rodriguez played for six teams across the U.S. during his illustrious career as a catcher, and is perhaps loved and claimed most by Puerto Ricans and by Texans, who know him as a member of the Texas Rangers team.
This adds a bit of irony to the claim that statehood would be the end of Puerto Ricans. Texas was briefly a republic before statehood, and has a stronger independence movement than Puerto Rico (though it’s still a very small proportion of the population). Texans would be appalled to think that their statehood could hinder their identity as Texans. A patriotic group, Texans are proud to be Americans, proud of the United States, and fiercely proud of being Texans.
Puerto Ricans, too, are proud of their identity as Puerto Ricans. In a recent poll, 75% of Puerto Rican voters in Central Florida surveyed agreed with the statement, “If Puerto Rico were to become a state and added the 51st star to the US flag it would fill me with pride.” Puerto Rican heritage events from parades to festivals take place across the nation. With more individuals of Puerto Rican heritage living in the 50 states than in Puerto Rico, the suggestion that statehood would “obliterate the concept of Puerto Rican” is hard to defend.
It was also a question considered by many to be inappropriate to throw at Rodriguez as he celebrated his induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Rodriguez simply said that he wanted to keep sports and politics separate. “I am Iván Rodríguez,” he said, “and I want the best for Puerto Rico.”
“The idea that statehood for Puerto Rico would somehow ‘obliterate’ the identity of Puerto Ricans is absurd and offensive,” Fuentes continued in his statement. “Mr. Rojas and ESPN should apologize to the American citizens of Puerto Rico who voted 97% in favor of statehood.”