When the Miami Marlins lured manager Ozzie Guillen from the Chicago White Sox last Fall, they knew they were importing a colorful personality to run their ball club. But Marlins management probably wasn’t counting on Guillen being so colorful that he would alienate a substantial fraction of their fan base. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what Guillen has done, placing himself and his employer in the crossfire after praising Cuban dictator Fidel Castro in an interview with Time.
After saying that he “loved” and “respected” the man who has ruled Cuba with an iron fist for more than five decades, Guillen offered this explanation: “You know why? A lot of people have wanted to kill Fidel Castro for the last 60 years, but that [expletive] is still here.”
Given that his team’s new ballpark is located in Miami’s Little Havana neighborhood, it didn’t take long for word of the interview to break out in South Florida’s Cuban exile community. Quickly realizing that he had some explaining to do, the Marlins manager called a closed-door press conference after the conclusion of Saturday night’s game between the Marlins and the Cincinnati Reds.
“I will apologize if I hurt somebody’s feelings, or I hurt somebody’s thought,” Guillen told the writers. “I want them to know I’m against everything 100 percent — I repeat it again — the way this man [been] treating people for the last 60 years.”
In tandem with Guillen’s apology, the team issued its own statement blasting Castro in an attempt to make peace with fans: “There is nothing to respect about Fidel Casto. He is a brutal dictator who has caused unthinkable pain for more than 50 years,” the team’s statement said. “We live in a community filled with victims of this dictatorship, and the people in Cuba continue to suffer today.”
But the apology might not be enough for some groups representing Cuban exiles. One such group, Vigilia Mambisa, plans to begin protesting outside the team’s ballpark on Tuesday in an effort to get Guillen to quit as Marlins manager.
It should be noted that this isn’t the first time that Guillen has shaded the line with Latin American strongmen. Alternately, Guillen has both praised and condemned Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez, going as far as appearing on a government radio program with Chavez while Guillen was managing the White Sox to a win over the Houston Astros in the 2005 World Series.
Eric McErlain blogs at Off Wing Opinion, a Forbes “Best of the Web” winner. In 2006 he wrote a “bloggers bill of rights” to help integrate bloggers into the Washington Capitals’ press box. Eric has also written for Deadspin, NBC Sports and the Sporting News, and covers sports television for The TV News. Follow Eric on Twitter.