Granted, sports personalities are damned if they do and damned if they don't. This week, Miami Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen, not a stranger to controversy, is feeling the heat for his comments about Fidel Castro.
"I love Fidel Castro," Blurts Ozzie Guillen, the new manager of the Miami Marlins, in his Jupiter, Fla., spring-training office before an early-March team workout. During a typically stream-of-consciousness Ozzie oratory, he has covered some favorite topics, such as his passion for bullfighting ("You're giving the animal an opportunity to kill you"), disdain for sports shrinks ("You're 4 for 4, you don't need psychology. You're 0 for 4, you need a f—ing guy to get you ready to play?") and the benefits of brutal honesty ("I told my wife, 'I don't like the perfume you're wearing.' She was mad, but meanwhile, I don't have to sleep with her every night and smell that s—").
Now he is riffing on politics. And yes, the new jefe of the Miami baseball team, which will start playing in a sleek new stadium in the Cuban community of Little Havana on April 4, just professed his adoration of the leader reviled by his new neighbors.
After a second of reflection, the most unfiltered figure in baseball, if not sports, wants a do-over. "I respect Fidel Castro," says Guillen, a Venezuela native who also says he respects Hugo Chavez. "You know why? A lot of people have wanted to kill Fidel Castro for the last 60 years, but that mother—— is still here."
Those comments have now caused a firestorm in Miami, where Castro talk and any hint of admiration for the Cuban dictator can cause havoc. Just one week into his tenure as the Marlins skipper, and people in Miami are calling for his resignation. Even Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Giménez weighed in on Monday when he issued this statement:
“I join the rest of our Miami-Dade County community and all freedom-loving people in condemning the statement made by Miami Marlins Manager Ozzie Guillen,” Giménez said in a 5 p.m. statement. “For too long, the Marlins organization has been the source of controversies in our community and I now challenge them to take decisive steps to bring this community back together.”
Even though Guillen quickly apologized over the weekend, he is still going to hold a conference today in Miami at 10:30 am EST. In the meantime, Guillen has already gone on record and has said the following:
“I’m against the way he [Castro] treats people and the way [he has treated] his country for a long time. I’m against that 100 percent.”
“I was planning to do something Friday, but [Tuesday] we have the day off and I want to make everything clear so people can talk to me face-to-face. They can ask me whatever questions they want, and the sooner the better for the people, for the ballclub and for me. I want to tell people what is going on in my mind and what I believe.”
“I want the people there. I feel embarrassed. I feel guilty not because I’m lying, but because this thing hasn’t let me sleep for three days. Only my wife knows how bad it’s been last few days. I feel very guilty, sad and embarrassed. Anyone who wants to be there, feel free. I want the Cuban people to understand what I’m going to say because everything I’m going to say is true."
“I have to make people feel good about themselves. I will say what I said a couple of days ago. I don’t want to just make a statement and that’s it because I think when you do that, that’s a bunch of crap."
“I feel sad because I know I hurt a lot of people. I’m Latino. I live in Miami. I have a lot of friends and players [that are Cuban]. They know who I am. They know how I feel.”
How many more times does Guillen need to say he was sorry? In the end, Guillen screwed up, and he quickly responded to it. Not much more you can do, and most rational people will just move on. Now if only the Cuban exile community could do the same.