Guillen should not be punished for remarks
Ozzie Guillen, manager for the Miami Marlins, was recently been criticized for his comments in Time magazine on Cuban dictator Fidel Castro. Guillen was quoted in an interview, “I respect Fidel Castro ... You know why? Many people have tried to kill Castro in the last 60 years, yet that [expletive] is still there.”
His statement sparked outrage among Cuban-Americans in Miami and resulted in a five-game suspension without pay. Although Guillen deserves the reprimands from enraged citizens, he does not deserve to be suspended for his comment.
While his viewpoint was inconsiderate of the Cuban-Americans in Miami who have lost family and property to Castro’s rule, he had no intention to make a political statement or endorse Castro’s atrocities.
Instead, the statement was at most an attempt at humor gone wrong. In the article “Is Castro Cuban-Americans’ Hitler?” in the Huffington Post, Charles Garcia, CEO of Hispanic merchant bank Garcia Trujillo, said Guillen is “legendary for putting his foot in his mouth.” He has a reputation for saying absurd things, which is simply what happened during his interview with Time magazine.
Guillen was quick to apologize and make clear that he admired Castro’s ability to evade death, not his inhumane actions. Guillen’s apology and insistence on returning to Miami to answer questions show that he did not mean harm to those affected by Castro’s reign.
The embarrassment he has faced, even after his apology, is a proper way to stress the need for sensitivity when discussing controversial subjects, but such embarrassment is punishment enough.
There is also Guillen’s freedom of speech to be protected. Everyone in the United States has the right to voice his or her opinions.
There are many examples of controversy surrounding comments of other professionals in the sports world, such as Pittsburgh Steeler Rashard Mendenhall’s tweets last year that decried the celebrations surrounding the death of terrorist Osama Bin Laden. However, the controversy did not result in any direct punishment from the Steelers’ management.
Guillen should not be professionally disciplined for voicing his opinion when other athletes have gone unpunished for equally controversial comments.
Ultimately, the controversy over Guillen’s interview should have resulted in a lesson for him and the American people, rather than a suspension. The reaction to Guillen is a reminder that one must be careful and considerate when speaking about issues that have not yet healed, including cultural and ethical wounds.
It should not, however, be a lesson to teach Americans that unpopular opinions will be suppressed, just as Castro suppressed speech for the refugees who are now living in Miami.