The Marlins suspended manager Ozzie Guillen for 5 games earlier today, after a firestorm of protests resulted from Guillen telling a Time Magazine reporter that he “loves” Fidel Castro. Subsequent apologies from Guillen have failed to quell criticism, and recently removed Current TV anchor Keith Olbermann — via his MLB.com blog — suggests that if Ozzie wasn’t asking for it this time, he certainly was on a prior occasion.
As Rick Telander of the Chicago Sun-Times noted late last night, he interviewed Guillen, the managing the White Sox for a Men’s Journal Q-and-A four years ago :
And I asked him this: “Who’s the toughest man you know?’’
His response, which took me by surprise: “Fidel Castro.’’
“He’s a bull—- dictator and everybody’s against him, and he still survives, has power. Still has a country behind him,’’ Ozzie replied. “Everywhere he goes, they roll out the red carpet. I don’t admire his philosophy; I admire him.’’
That’s an added wrinkle, and it suggests the suspension may be insufficient, at least in terms of length. For some context: over a period of six or seven years, Cincinnati Reds’ owner Marge Schott had said something to offend virtually every group except The Visiting Nurse Association. She said Adolf Hitler “was good in the beginning, but went too far.” She had previously made antisemitic remarks, kept some Nazi trophies from her late husband’s service in World War II (not all that uncommon), bashed gays, blacks, Asians, and supposedly wanted to fire her manager Davey Johnson because he was living with his girlfriend. Major League Baseball – as opposed to just the team acting on Guillen – suspended her for two-and-a-half years and eventually applied enough pressure to get her to sell the franchise.
I appreciate Non-Metallic K.O.’s analogy, though it’s worth noting Schott had a very different role within MLB. As an owner, she had influence over hiring practices, impacted the workplace (or at least Eric Davis’ health care). etc. Guillen’s right to free speech is no more or less precious than that Schott’s, but there’s nothing surprising about his being disciplined by his own team rather than Major League Baseball.