Miami Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen praised Cuban leader Fidel Castro. For a club based in Little Havana and desperate to get back in the city's good graces, it was a massive mistake.
An unusually subdued Ozzie Guillen addressed the media Tuesday morning, just minutes after the Miami Marlins suspended him five games for comments praising Cuban dictator Fidel Castro.
"This is the biggest mistake so far in my life," said a tired- looking, slightly perturbed Guillen, who conducted the hour-long press conference mostly in Spanish. "If I don't learn from this, then I will call myself dumb."
The Marlins "hired me to manage a ball club, not talk about politics," he added. "I'm very guilty, very sad, and very embarrassed.
The fracas started over the weekend, when Time magazine published an interview on its website in which the Marlins skipper said he "loved" Castro. "I respect Fidel Castro. You know why? A lot of people have wanted to kill Fidel Castro for the last 60 years, but that [expletive] is still here."
The comments might not have caused too much of a stir in many other cities. But Guillen coaches a team with a pricey new ballpark in the Little Havana neighborhood of Miami, densely populated by Cuban-Americans who fervently dislike Fidel Castro. What's worse, he's the face of a massive rebranding effort by the club, which hoped to use him as a tool to attract a potentially sizable Hispanic fan base.
The Marlins quickly distanced themselves from Guillen's remarks, releasing a statement saying, "There is nothing to respect about Fidel Castro. He is a brutal dictator who caused unthinkable pain for more than 50 years. We live in a community filled with victims of his dictatorship and the people in Cuba continue to suffer today."
Those potential fans are now loudly calling for him to be fired.
Leaders of Miami's Cuban community have come out in force against Guillen and the Marlins. Miami's city commission chair released a statement saying Guillen should lose his job for his "admiration for a dictator who has destroyed the lives of so many and who has violated the basic human rights of millions. …