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State Department names Shaq as Basketball Sports Envoy to Cuba

Shaq will travel to Cuba to encourage positive ties between Cubans and Americans. 
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Basketball diplomacy is back—and this time it doesn’t involve Dennis Rodman. 

The U.S. Department of State has named Shaquille O’Neal as its first–ever Basketball Sports Envoy to Cuba, the department announced Friday. 

In a statement, the State Department said that O’Neal will serve as envoy from June 25–28. O’Neal will help lead a program that aims “to reach out to young people and promote cooperation and engagement in Cuba.”

Since December 2014, President Obama has moved to normalize relations between the United States and Cuba. Obama visited Cuba in March, becoming the first sitting president to do so since Calvin Coolidge in 1928. 

In Cuba, O’Neal will lead basketball clinics for Cuban youth, according to the State Department. He will also visit important historic and cultural sites in Havana. The State Department’s full release is below. 

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O’Neal, a 15–time NBA All–Star, was elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame earlier this year. 

- Stanley Kay