Should baseball managers be suspended for having dumb political opinions?
So Ozzie Guillen, the new manager of the Florida Marlins, has a bit of a soft spot for communist dictators. This time around, Guillen told Time magazine that he loved Fidel Castro. Being that he manages in Miami, his comments were met with a flood criticism, a five-game suspension and one of those cringe-inducing self-flagellating press conferences.
It wasn’t the first time Guillen praised Castro. In 2008, Guillen, asked to name the toughest man he knows, explained:
“Fidel Castro. He’s a bull—- dictator and everybody’s against him, and he still survives, has power. Still has a country behind him. Everywhere he goes they roll out the red carpet. I don’t admire his philosophy. I admire him.”
In the past, Guillen also displayed some admiration for Hugo Chavez (“Not too many people like the president. I do.”). But then again, after Sean Penn wrote one of his odes to the “president” of Venezuela (“This is not a dictator supported by the wealthy classes, but rather, a president elected by the impoverished and at the service of the Venezuelan constitution”) Guillen, who was born in Venezuela, tweeted: “Sean penn if you love venezuela please move to venezuela for a year. But rent a house in guarenas or guatire to see how long you last clown.”
Now, whenever Guillen says something crazy — and that’s very often — he blames it on a faulty Spanish-to-English filter. So, one wonders, what does this baseball manager really think about the geopolitical scene in South America?
Guillen now swears he opposed all ugly regimes around the world — Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua, and any other nation he could think of to placate his critics. Don’t you feel better? “And for all the Cuban families, I’m sorry. I hope that when I get out of here people will understand who Ozzie Guillen is,” he explained.
Nothing Ozzie says on Cuba should matter to Cuban families, who have a deep understanding of the immorality and cruelty of communism, any more than it should matter what Jeff Spicoli says about the world. Some comments are inexcusable, suspendable, fireable. If I was the owner of the Marlins I would probably just let Guillen go. But let’s remember that we have politicians, movie stars and news media, implicitly or explicitly, praising these dictators — and others — and never suffer for it.
With all that said, it is mildly unsettling to hear that a manager was suspended for having an idiotic opinion that has nothing to do with his job. Major League Baseball and the Marlins are free to do what they like. Players and mangers are fined and suspended all the time for making comments that leagues or teams find offensive. And this has nothing to do with the First Amendment – ably explained here, by yes, Keith Olbermann.
What happens, though, when pressure groups start to protest a manger for saying and thinking things that annoy other groups? Being too Catholic is homophobic! Being a Tea Partier is racist! You know the drill. Media Matters will soon start a sports division, etc …
I’m not arguing that the Guillen suspension was undeserved, but I do wonder where this goes. Because it always seems to go there.