The Florida Marlins suspended Ozzie Guillen for comments he made to Time Magazine expressing his apparent support for Fidel Castro. He tried to be funny. He said something stupid. His suspension is appropriate, though it’s important to define why it is appropriate.
Throwing banana chips at a Black Dominican player for being “an animal” is a moral issue. This is a political one. Fidel Castro was a dictator aligned against the United States. The U.S. considers multiple dictatorships in the Middle East, amenable to American business interests, allies. The U.S. demonized Cuba, while tacitly supporting its Cold War ally Apartheid South Africa. Geopolitics are often complex and amoral.
Whether he likes Castro’s style or supports Cuba’s healthcare policy, Ozzie Guillen’s personal politics should be irrelevant. His previous Castro comments caused little controversy, because they were not inherently offensive. Now that he’s managing in Miami, such comments take on a new context.
The Marlins are opening a new ballpark and trying to build a fan base. Guillen’s comments are important, because this was a public relations disaster. He offended a powerful Cuban exile community in South Florida. The new ballpark is in Little Havana. Instead of potential fans congregating inside the stadium they are protesting outside it. He screwed up.
The First Amendment affords one the right to free speech, not to remain employed after exercising that right. Ozzie Guillen was reprimanded by his employer, the Marlins, perhaps a bit leniently considering the possible effects. Whether it’s enough should be an issue for the Marlins to sort out. MLB officials, who once found Fidel Castro fit to dine with, should focus on more salient league-wide issues, such as drunk driving.
[Photo via Presswire]