Critics: Suspending Marlins' Manager Not Enough

Originally published on April 10, 2012 5:26 pm
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From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

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And I'm Audie Cornish. The Miami Marlins are suspending their manager, Ozzie Guillen, because of comments he made praising Cuban dictator, Fidel Castro. Guillen will sit out five games and he has apologized to the city, to Cuban-Americans and to his baseball team.

But, as NPR's Greg Allen reports, many Cuban-Americans and others in the community say that's not enough.

GREG ALLEN, BYLINE: The Miami Marlins are celebrating a new season, a new stadium and a new look baseball team. And, in the middle of the party, new Marlins' manager, Ozzie Guillen, brings it all to a screeching halt.

In an interview published online by Time magazine Friday, he said, I respect Castro. You know why? A lot of people have wanted to kill Fidel Castro for the last 60 years but, Guillen said, he's still there.

To baseball fans familiar with Guillen's outspoken irreverence and brashness, may be not surprising, but in Miami...

(SOUNDBITE OF PEOPLE CHANTING)

ALLEN: Outside Marlins Stadium, a couple of hundred people gathered today chanting boycott, and calling on the Marlins to fire Guillen. Up on the big screen above the plaza, there was Ozzie Guillen. While the crowd called for his dismissal, inside the stadium, he was explaining his comments and delivering an apology.

OZZIE GUILLEN: I'm very, very, very sorry about the problem, about what happening. And I will do everything to make it better, everything in my power to make it better.

ALLEN: Outside the stadium, Reynaldo Espanoza(ph) said he wasn't interested in hearing what Guillen had to say.

REYNALDO ESPANOZA: He's a public figure and he is a loose cannon. He's a Chavez lover. We got him on film saying we love Chavez, viva Chavez. Now, he loves Fidel, but again, if he would have said that he loved Adolf Hitler and "Mein Kampf," he would have been fired five minutes later.

ALLEN: Guillen says, in that video recorded after the Chicago White Sox won the World Series, he wasn't the person yelling, viva Chavez. Guillen is Venezuelan and has been a guest on Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez's radio program, but today, he said, he'd rather be dead than vote for Chavez. And he tried to explain his comments about respecting Castro because he was still alive despite assassination attempts after 60 years. Guillen said he was thinking in Spanish, but speaking English.

GUILLEN: I was thinking Spanish and then I say, I cannot believe somebody hurt so many people over the years is still alive.

ALLEN: Guillen's explanation isn't helped by the fact that he's said positive things about Castro in the past. In a 2008 interview for Men's Journal, when asked who was the toughest man he knew, Guillen replied, Fidel Castro. When asked why, he said, he's a BS dictator and everybody's against him and he still survives. Guillen said, I don't admire his philosophy, I admire him.

Guillen has a history of saying things front office managers regret, but in these comments, he's gone further, leading public officials in Miami to call for his immediate dismissal. Miami City Commission chairman, Francis Suarez, is one of a long list of city and county officials who are calling on the Marlins to fire Guillen as manager.

FRANCIS SUAREZ: To add insult to injury, this is a publicly financed structure, so we just started a season and they've had a series of missteps going forward and I'm calling on them to take drastic action to remedy the situation.

ALLEN: Even before this flap, the Marlins' management has stirred a strong current of resentment among some in Miami. The deal that used public tax money to build the stadium was so unpopular that it helped lead to the recall of the county mayor who negotiated it. Now, the Marlins will have to see whether a five game suspension will be enough to mollify Miami's Cuban-American community.

As for Guillen, he says, this time, he's learned his lesson that sports and politics don't mix. As for the team, Marlins players have a day off today, but Guillen says he'll talk to them tomorrow and apologize personally for marring what otherwise has been an upbeat start to a promising season.

Greg Allen, NPR News, Miami. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.