"I respect Fidel Castro. You know why? A lot of people have wanted to kill Fidel Castro for the last 60 years, but that mother****** is still here."—Ozzie Guillen
Ozzie Guillen’s controversial quotes about Cuban dictator Fidel Castro during the weekend created an Internet firestorm.
Outraged Cubans have pledged to boycott the Marlins. And conscientious activists have called for MLB to suspend Guillen for as many as 30 games. Yet, Guillen’s quotes don’t seem to me to be as inflammatory as they've been portrayed.
I will preface all my comments by saying I am not Cuban, nor do I live in Miami, so I cannot and will not attempt to relate to the struggles faced by Cuban émigrés.
That being said, Ozzie Guillen did not discuss Castro’s policies. He did not praise Castro’s humanitarian record or say that Castro should be the model for all government leaders around the world.
Instead, he said that he respected the man for surviving despite lots of people wanting him dead.
Given what we know about Ozzie Guillen, this should not really come as a surprise. Much of what the man says is for shock value, to take the focus off his team (or in this case, perhaps, his enormous ballpark), and provide himself as a lightning rod so that his team can get back to business.
This comment does not exactly fall under that category, as it will likely bring more distractions, but Guillen’s track record reminds us that he is liable to speak off-the-cuff.
In fact, there may be a surface-level similarity when one takes the political context out of it. Guillen, often a controversial figure, had his head called for multiple times as manager of the Chicago White Sox. And yet, he managed to keep his job for eight seasons.
MLB should not suspend Guillen for any games, let alone 30. The first amendment guarantees the right to freedom of speech, and Guillen is protected by it. Free speech is a right the sports world should take seriously given its segregationist background.
Guillen, while he clearly offended some people, did not say anything that will cause harm. He has a right to his opinions, and that right is one thing that makes America the great country that it is.
Sports figures have made other provocative statements in the past year or so.
Adrian Peterson said that playing in the NFL was like modern-day slavery. Luke Scott claimed that President Obama forged his birth certificate. The same right that allows these athletes to speak their mind is what should protect Guillen.
If Guillen is suspended, it will be MLB making a statement that they are more concerned with bowing to media pressure than standing up for employees who have done nothing wrong.