José Fernández, a Miami Marlins pitcher considered to be one of the best in the game, was killed on Sunday in a boat crash. He was 24.
Fernández and two unnamed men were found by the U.S. Coast Guard at around 3 a.m. after the Coast Guard saw their boat crashed near Miami Beach. According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the boat, which was found overturned, was cruising at full speed when it hit a dark jetty and flipped over. Authorities said no one on board was wearing a life jacket. “It’s a tragic loss for the city of Miami, for the community, for baseball, and for anyone who ever met Jose,” FWC Officer Lorenzo Veloz, who said he had met Fernandez several times, told the Miami Herald. “I’m sorry. I’m getting goosebumps right now. It’s really hitting home.”
The death of Fernández, who defected to Cuba on his third try at 15 on a speedboat, rocked both the South Florida and baseball communities. The Marlins canceled today's game, against the Atlanta Braves, and said in a statement, "The Miami Marlins organization is devastated by the tragic loss of José Fernández. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family at this very difficult time." Fernández was Rookie of the Year in 2013 and a two-time All Star player.
Baseball players from across the country have expressed how hard this is hitting them.
Just five days ago, Fernández posted a picture on Instagram of his pregnant girlfriend, writing underneath, "I'm ready for where this is gonna take us together."
Already, some conservative figures on social media are politicizing Fernández's tragic, sudden death, playing upon his status as a Cuban refugee who came to America to criticize athletes who are silently, peacefully protesting institutionalized racism by kneeling during the National Anthem.
State Rep. Matt Gaetz, who represents a district in northwestern Florida nearly 700 miles from Miami, wrote on Twitter that, as "an admirer of the Cuban-American experience," he's crushed, but not too crushed to admonish those standing up for their rights.
Okaloosa County, makes up much of Gaetz's district, is over 80 percent white, but he wrote to a critic on Twitter that "you'd be surprised!" at how much he knows of the "Cuban-American experience." (Sure.)
Retired professional mixed martial artist Julie Kedzie responded to Gaetz's tweet by encouraging all athletes to exercise their freedoms and pointing out that those freedoms are exactly why Fernández defected to America.
Sam Stecklow is the Weekend Editor for Fusion.