Puerto Rico and sports

Why does Puerto Rico have its own sports teams in international play? Shouldn’t those players be on the US teams?

International sports events are private affairs. The various International Sports Federations and the International Olympic Committee are private entities, even if some of the people who make them up do represent governments, and they set up their rules as to who plays and who doesn’t.

When the modern Olympic/International Sports movement was taking shape, it was a matter not of countries as in government-to-government, but a matter of the leagues or clubs established in each location “representing” their home town/land in others’ turf. In such a case, the identity of the place you are representing need not be coequal with the politically sovereign nation state that issues your passport. You may have noticed another carryover from that in how for some (non-Olympic) sports venues, there are separate “Scotland” and “England” teams, rather than one Britain team.

Thus, from the beginning, leagues or clubs founded in non-independent territories that were considered as distinct from the metropolitan state could compete in the name of “their colors” separately from those established in the metropolitan state, because indeed the teams, leagues and clubs were independent entities.

For the Olympic side of things, IOC has codified this so that those entities that are not an integral part of the main nation-state, but are subjects, associates, unincorporated territories, etc. are entitled to separate representation. Not only Puerto Rico, but also Guam, the USVI, the Northern Marianas, and American Samoa may field teams separate from Team USA in the Olympics. OTOH Hawaii doesn’t because it’s fully part of the US. To take it even further, when HongKong was returned to Chinese Sovereignty in 1997, it was not absorbed as a full province, and retained its separate Olympic Committee, which had itself been separate from Britain’s, for at least two Olympic cycle.

Puerto Ricans DO compete in the USA Olympic Teams, if they so qualify and choose: GiGi Fernández, Jesse Vasallo, Chegui Torres. And I’m sure Iverson would have preferred Arroyo, Ayuso, et al., playing with him rather than against him in August of '04. There are certain rules and stipulations and red-tape-hoop-jumping exercises that have to be complied with to prevent “ringers”, but there are a number of athletes who if/when they decide to seek to go into Olympic competition, could choose whether to qualify under a USA or a Puerto Rican sports federation. Although it is possible to “change countries” in olympic sports, with the major marquee events the process of making the team is such that you are committed pretty early on.

Puerto Rico, even though a US Territory and considered US Soil for immigration, customs, birthright citizenship, communications, monetary and security matters, is according to the US Supreme Court in a status of “belonging to, but not incorporated into” the United States. So are the other four insular polities mentioned above. So, they can be treated different from the states. If Puerto Rico becomes a State, THEN most likely its olympic committee and sports federations would have to melt into or become subsidiaries of those at the US national level, due to the Amateur Sports Act granting a protected-monopoly franchise to USOC within the United States. And even then, for events sponsored purely by private businesses, it would be up to them if they care to keep having a “Team Puerto Rico.”

That was a damned excellent reply! You should do a Staff Report.