Saying that he “loved” Castro, Miami Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen explained, “I respect Fidel Castro. You know why? A lot of people have wanted to kill Fidel Castro for the last 60 years, but that son of a b—— is still here.”
Ozzie Guillen was suspended for 5 games and forced to apologize for those remarks. America’s game is not so American today. As Dave Zirin points out,
Let’s leave aside the rather glaring irony that the politicians, sports commentators and Cuban exiles want to show their love of freedom by taking Guillen’s job for the crime of exercising free speech. The fact is that when looking for political consistency and clarity, Ozzie Guillen is not the best place to start. The Venezuela-born Guillen’s comments on Castro are not very different from what he has always said about Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez. He has made comments very favorable about Chávez and very negative. He said, “Viva Chávez” after his Chicago White Sox won the 2005 World Series. He has also been one of Chávez’s most high-profile critics.
Trying to make sense of Guillen based on public utterances is a fool’s errand. As someone who knows people that talk to Guillen when the cameras are off, I will try to explain his actual politics on Venezuela and Cuba. Guillen is big on a collective Latin American pride and will not abide anti-immigrant and anti-Latino words or deeds. He has a great deal of respect for the way Castro and Chávez stand up to the United States. He opposes efforts by the United States to impose its will on these countries and wishes the rest of Latin America would show similar mettle. It’s not a question of the relative good or bad of Cuba’s internal politics. It’s a question of independence. He’s also as gung-ho for the United States as any manager in baseball, going as far as to fine players for not showing proper respect for the National Anthem, a practice I criticized in 2005. I know that people love portraying Ozzie Guillen as an out-there, crazy kind of guy, and that’s in part because he is an out-there crazy kind of guy. But what’s crazier? Guillen’s views on Cuba or the fact that an aging coterie of people who mourn for the strong hand of Fulgencio Batista control the political debate in South Florida?
MLB and Bud Selig surely must have had no problem with this, especially considering that In 1999 the Baltimore Orioles playedan exhibition game in Cuba right? Not so much:
“Major League Baseball supports today’s decision by the Marlins to suspend Ozzie Guillen. As I have often said, Baseball is a social institution with important social responsibilities. All of our 30 Clubs play significant roles within their local communities, and I expect those who represent Major League Baseball to act with the kind of respect and sensitivity that the game’s many cultures deserve. Mr. Guillen’s remarks, which were offensive to an important part of the Miami community and others throughout the world, have no place in our game.”
Bud Selig is not Mr. Consistency as Ozzie said basically the same thing four years ago.:
I asked him this: “Who’s the toughest man you know?’’
His response, which took me by surprise: “Fidel Castro.’’
“He’s a bull—- dictator and everybody’s against him, and he still survives, has power. Still has a country behind him,’’ Ozzie replied. “Everywhere he goes, they roll out the red carpet. I don’t admire his philosophy; I admire him.’’