Written by: Ray Hagan (@rayhagan19)
“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 (SOB) is still there.”
With those words Ozzie Guillen started a firestorm that he never could have imagined. Ozzie is terribly misguided, but is he not entitled to an opinion? I don’t agree with it, Castro is a heinous man responsible for atrocities those of us living in America will thankfully never know. I understand that those comments will offend people, and I understand that those comments will incite rage and other emotions. I find the comments offensive, and I am not of Cuban descent. However, isn’t one of the great things about this country Freedom of Speech? Isn’t that one of the many things that Cuban-Americans have traveled to this country to find?
Ozzie Guillen has made a career of putting himself in the limelight. In many ways he’s the Rex Ryan of baseball. I’ve never been a fan of Ozzie the person, but I’ve always been impressed by Ozzie the manager. He always seems to get the most out of his players. He offends a lot of people, and this time is no different. Today his words cost him five games in the dugout. This isn’t the first time that Guillen has been candid about his “respect” for Castro, but I feel that his quote from 2008 gives a clearer, more accurate, picture of how he feels, "He's a bull ... dictator and everybody's against him and he still survives, has power. ... I don't admire his philosophy, I admire him."
The reason people are up in arms is because of the type of man Castro is, and the type of philosophies he lives by. Guillen clearly doesn’t admire that part of the man. Right or wrong, Guillen’s words have always gotten him into trouble. Ozzie has a terrible case of Foot-in-Mouth Syndrome. He’s always been defensive, always felt misunderstood, always felt like everyone is against him. Look at the above quote, and you’ll see what he admires about Castro. He admires the fact that the man has stayed in charge while the world is against him. What he admires in Castro is what he admires in himself. Sports have always revolved around the “us against the world” and “nobody believed in us” mentality. Unfortunately for Ozzie, he’s taken that too far, and he’s admiring that quality in a man that no one should admire anything about.
With notoriety comes certain expectation about how a man should carry himself. As a famous individual of Hispanic heritage, Ozzie has a responsibility to think before he speaks, and realize how his words could affect a community that is looking for a hero of their own. Guillen failed to meet those expectations. There should be a backlash for that. People should let Guillen know that his actions, and his words let them down. Do I think that Guillen deserves to be removed from the bench for 5 games? No, I don’t. I think that the Miami Marlins are acting far too harshly, and attempting to cover their own behinds. They are attempting to avoid a backlash from a Hispanic community in Miami that they desperately need the support of to fill a new ballpark. However, in doing so, they are restricting the rights of their own manager to speak freely. One doesn’t have to agree with what Guillen said, in order to appreciate his right to say it. In attempting to ease this situation with the fans, the Marlins are emulating the part of Castro that is far worse than the part that Ozzie “respects." The Marlins are restricting Guillen’s right to speak his mind, they are affecting his ability to work, and they are showing themselves to be frauds. Anyone who hires Guillen knows the inherent risks.
Ozzie is bound to say something foolish, something controversial, and something that offends more people than an organization would like. The Marlins didn’t hire Guillen for his fan friendly nature, or his ability to say the right things, they hired him to win baseball games. What the organization should have done was distance themselves from the comments, instead of distancing themselves from Guillen. Ozzie seemed to, for once; really understand the gravity of the situation surrounding him. He’ll be booed in parks nationwide, he’ll have the stigma of these comments attached to him for a long time, and will have a lot of fences to mend. That is enough of a penalty. As much as I disagree with his comments, and as much as I think he was wrong to say them, I believe he has as much right to say them. The crowds of protestors, and crowds at every ball park that will say things to Ozzie that he will not like have that right as well. Guillen is paying too steep of a price.
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