A nine-foot tall bronze statue of Jose Fernandez will be built on the plaza of Marlins Park, the team announced Thursday. It’s a move bound to raise a few eyebrows considering Fernandez was under the influence of alcohol and cocaine at the time he crashed a boat and killed himself and two other men.
Marlins president David Samson says the organization has weighed all of the circumstances and decided to go forth with the tribute.
“It doesn’t change the legacy of Jose in our view,” Samson said. “It is very disappointing. It’s a tragedy. But it doesn’t change our love for him or the fact we want him to be memorialized here at Marlins Park, because he is forever a Marlin.”
In his brief career, Fernandez showed the potential to become an all-time great. He was a beloved player with an engaging personality. The Marlins’ desire to honor him with a statue is understandable.
The reasons to not do this, however, seems self-evident.
In our increasingly purely black or purely white world, it’s important to point out that honoring the dead, much like the lives of the living, is extremely complicated. Fernandez’s entire existence and the good he did is not completely erased by his final moments. The Marlins also can’t ignore his final moments while determining his legacy.
There are no hard and fast, universally accepted rules for who gets a statue and who doesn’t. But it doesn’t seem unreasonable to think a person responsible for two other deaths has a high barrier to clear when it comes to immortalization. The Marlins may not think that they are sending a message to the families who lost sons on Fernandez’s boat, but they are. A nine-foot statue is a slap in the face to their pain.
To be clear, I do think this issue is complicated. One can quibble with the choice but devoting feverish amounts of outrage seems excessive. It’s just surprising that the Marlins would stick with this decision considering the obvious blowback and the message it sends.