American professional sports have become a trillion-dollar industry whose players are increasingly foreign born. America has embraced these players and welcomed them into this country at an increasing rate for good reason; we want to watch the best compete against the best. We are willing to pay for it, too. And yet, when it comes to other hard-working, talented foreign nationals who play on a less-visible landscape, our country’s leaders have increasingly focused on how they can erect barriers to their entry and expedite their exit. We would be wise to do just the opposite and remember that sports are indeed a microcosm of life.
The most exciting rookie in baseball is Los Angeles Angels phenom Shohei Ohtani, a Japanese national who is the first two-way baseball player in decades. After years of honing his talent in Japan, he decided to compete on the world’s biggest stage and join Major League Baseball. Shohei has been outstanding thus far in his first MLB season. The 23-year-old has a 2.08 ERA and 9.00 K/BB ratio after two starts, and as occasional designated hitter he’s hit for a .364 batting average and 3 home runs. America loves the Sho.
The likely rookie of the year for the National Basketball Association is Ben Simmons of Australia, who has averaged nearly a triple-double in his first full season and has led a young Philly team into the Playoffs for the first time in years. The “Greek Freak,” a.k.a. Giannis Antetokounmpo, may be the NBA’s most beloved and worshipped basketball god. About a month after the NBA season ends, the NBA will hold its draft. Luka Doncic, a 6-foot-8 nineteen-year-old Slovenian, who currently plays for Real Madrid of the Euro League is likely to be chosen with the first pick. While America has rolled out the red carpet for Giannis, Sho, Ben, and Luka, millions of bright, talented DREAMers who chose America long before Ben and Luka dribbled a basketball or Shohei swung a bat, face an uncertain future. The current hypocrisy between the excitement shown to foreign national athletes and the ambivalence and outright disdain toward the talent and contributions of other foreign nationals remains inexplicable. As the best capitalists the world has ever seen, we should continue to welcome talent from wherever we can find it.
Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple, Inc., recently stated:
“If I were a country leader right now, my goal would be to monopolize the world’s talent . . . I want every smart person coming to my country because smart people create jobs . . . So, I would have a very aggressive plan not just to let a few people in—I would be recruiting.”
It’s important to notice that he chose the word “country” and not the United States. Like athletes, talent will travel. Major League Baseball and the L.A. Angels certainly did well in recruiting Sho to the United States. I would say, America did even better by embracing and honing the talents of millions of foreign nationals who have raised their families and worked hard to support American businesses. Why would even think about forfeiting our competitive advantage? It’s simply nonsense to kick talent out of this country or refuse to let talent enter. Like the leaders of professional sports leagues, our country’s current leadership need to understand the necessary importance of welcoming and keeping worldwide talent here in this country. America became the number #1 economy in the world by welcoming the world’s best and brightest. It must continue to do so or our next leaders really will need to Make America Great Again.
Jesse M. Bless, Senior Litigation Counsel