At a press conference this afternoon from Marlins Park, new manager Ozzie Guillen apologized over and over again for complimentary remarks that he made to a Time Magazine reporter about the brutal Cuban dictator Fidel Castro in an article that ran yesterday. This is far from the first time that Ozzie Guillen has made controversial remarks, but telling the Times Magazine reporter that he “loved” and “respected” a leader who hurt so many people and took away basic rights from the people of Cuba, was way out of bounds and alienated a major portion of the population in South Florida. Little Havana is one such neighborhood, home to many Cuban immigrant residents, where people there were less than thrilled with the statements that Guillen, a former player of Venezuelan descent, made to this reporter.
Today, as many people do when they realize they’ve made a huge mistake, Guillen backtracked from his comments. While Guillen said that he took responsibility for the uproar and that he was left feeling sad and embarrassed, he did try to play off some of the fervor as a misinterpretation of what he said by the reporter. Guillen also admitted that he was his stream of consciousness was in his native Spanish and that it didn’t come out right when articulated in English. In other words he was making excuses.
In response to these comments and to the Time Magazine article, the Miami Marlins decided it was in their best interest to suspend Guillen for 5 games without pay. Guillen will serve the suspension starting tomorrow (after he has a chance to speak with his team in Philadelphia) and the ban will continue through the first full series that the Marlins have at their new ballpark when they meet the Astros for a 3-game set over the weekend. If everything goes well and the uproar dies down than Guillen will be allowed to rejoin the team a week from today before they start a series with the Cubs. In the meantime Joey Cora will be the interim manager. The Marlins announced a statement, declaring the suspension, and trying to distance themselves from the comments, saying ““The Marlins acknowledge the seriousness of the comments attributed to Guillen. The pain and suffering caused by Fidel Castro cannon be minimized, especially in a community filled with victims of the dictatorship.”
In Guillen’s own words, as printed in Time Magazine, “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 [expletive] is still there.” Well guess what Ozzie, with ignorant comments like that you may not even make it through your first season as manager of the new-look Marlins. You may not even make it out of Miami with your own life. For everyone else, take this as a lesson to watch what you say whether it is in your personal or professional life, as not having a filter can have serious consequences. The old saying goes “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me” may ring true as a child, but as an adult what you say matters and can cost you a job, your freedom, or even your life. Ozzie Guillen is lucky that this lapse in judgment is only costing him 5 games.