Posted on 09 April 2012.
The Miami Marlins should suspend Ozzie Guillen. A one-month suspension would send a powerful message that Guillen’s thoughtless remarks on Cuban dictator Fidel Castro will not be tolerated. A one-week suspension probably is more realistic.
Yes, we live in a free country, but the Constitution protects free speech only from restriction by the state and federal governments. The Marlins, a private entity, presumably can impose the penalty of their choice on Guillen, who is a management employee, not part of the players union. Still, I’m not confident the Marlins will take action, not when their expectations for the team are so high, not when they just opened their new ballpark.
Sorry, Guillen’s offense is bigger than any of that.
I normally cringe at politically correct overreactions, particularly in response to mindless, preposterous remarks from people who are just spouting off. But when Guillen told Time magazine, “I love Fidel Castro . . . I respect Fidel Castro . . .” well, that’s about as extreme and insensitive as it gets.
Guillen apologized and the team issued a statement condemning his words, saying, “There is nothing to respect about Fidel Castro. He is a brutal dictator who caused unthinkable pain for more than 50 years. We live in a community filled with victims of his dictatorship and the people in Cuba continue to suffer today.”
The Marlins, however, merit no sympathy. In fact, they will get what they deserve if an anti-Castro, Cuban-American group boycotts and demonstrates against them until Guillen steps down, a plan that is in the works, according to NBCMiami.com.
You hire a loudmouth, you live with a loudmouth. Until, of course, you can tolerate him no more.
For the Marlins, that day likely will not come anytime soon. They are all-in on Guillen, and not simply because he just started the first year of a four-year contract.
Guillen, 48, is the centerpiece of the Marlins’ rebranding efforts in Miami, a bi-lingual Venezuelan native and attention magnet who recently made the cover of Sports Illustrated with shortstop Jose Reyes — and, ahem, even warranted Time’s attention.
Yet, here’s Guillen alienating the very community that the Marlins are desperate to embrace. If the Marlins don’t punish him now, when will they? Ask the Chicago White Sox, who allowed Guillen to get away with one indiscretion after another before finally deciding that the relationship needed to end.
The Marlins probably had pre-written apologies ready to cut and paste the day they hired Guillen, but his remarks on Castro were beyond the pale. If he wants to get drunk at the hotel bar every night, as he told CBSSports.com, that’s his business. But Castro is a flashpoint for a community in which he has lived for 12 years.
I’m not sure even what Guillen was trying to say to Time — he apparently admires Castro for surviving 60 years when “a lot of people have wanted to kill him.” Whatever his point, it’s almost unthinkable that the manager of the Miami Marlins could say such a thing, particularly when he effectively acts as the spokesman for the team.
I like Guillen. I worked with him when he was an analyst for FOX during the 2010 World Series. I’ve shared many a laugh with him, and yes, chuckled at his creative use of vulgarity and some of his inappropriate remarks.
Guillen is non-stop energy, mostly harmless. None other than Eddie Einhorn — vice-chairman of the White Sox, the team that traded Guillen to the Marlins — pulled me aside at the opening of the Marlins’ new ballpark and said quietly, “He’s a good person.”
Well, good people make mistakes, and Guillen just made the biggest of his career. Chances are the matter will blow over; everything seems to blow over in this society of limited attention spans. But the Marlins shouldn’t allow it to blow over. No, the Marlins should take a stand.
Not because a protest group wants him out.
Because it’s the right thing to do.