Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock the last few days then you’ve heard that Ozzie Guillen, manager of the Miami Marlins (Florida Marlins!), was suspended by his employer after making controversial comments about Fidel Castro. In case you missed the specific comments, here is what Guillen told Time:
I love Fidel Castro. I respect Fidel Castro. You know why? A lot of people have wanted to kill Fidel Castro for the last 60 years, but that son of a bitch is still there.
If you know anything about Miami, a city with a large number of Cuban exiles and their families, then you can understand why those comments were so controversial. Boycotts of the team were immediately announced and the Marlins were scrambling to condemn, not just the remarks, but also the Castro regime.
Guillen, who came up with and eventually managed the Chicago White Sox (he also played for the Atlanta Braves for two seasons in the late 90′s), is well known for making controversial remarks and statements, so the Marlins should have known what they were getting when they hired him. But looking at everything in context, David Harsanyi notes that Guillen is hardly a fan of Castro. Back in 2008, Guillen said of the Cuban dictator:
Fidel Castro. He’s a bull—- dictator and everybody’s against him, and he still survives, has power. Still has a country behind him. Everywhere he goes they roll out the red carpet. I don’t admire his philosophy. I admire him.
In some respect I can understand the reaction of the Marlins organization, given the sensativities of the community, not to mention that this year is a rebranding year — a new stadium, name change, and a lot of investment in free agent talent. However, I don’t like that the team is suspending a guy for making a political statement.
Ken Rosenthal, a great baseball writer, quickly noted in his calls for the Marlins to suspend Guillen that the First Amendment only protects individual from government, not private entities, such as an employer. He’s right, but that doesn’t make suspending Guillen the right call. Back when Carlos Delgado, a Puerto Rican native, was playing, he refused to stand for the “God Bless America” when played in ballparks. He also denounced the the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. He paid somewhat of a price for it as fans reacted negatively; however, he was never suspended for having controversial beliefs and opinions; nor should he have been.
No one, except for some on the Left, denies that Fidel Castro has murdered innocent people, stiflied dissent, and deprived Cubans of certain liberties. Guillen was immediately apologetic about the comment and seemed sincere. That really should have been enough, rather than going so far as suspending someone, costing him money, for making a political statement.