Muzzling Ozzie Guillen
Zirin, Dave, The Progressive
Howard Cosell once said famously that sports and politics don't mix. Yet, the more you stare at the world of sports, the more it becomes obvious that it's not "sports and politics" that don't mix, but sports and a certain kind of politics. If an athlete wants to "support the troops," drum up support for a new publicly funded stadium, or in the case of Tim Tebow, do commercials for rightwing evangelical hate shops like Focus on the Family, then you are a role model. Anyone who dares step out of that box bears a very different set of consequences.
Take Miami Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen. In an interview with Time magazine, Guillen said in the freewheeling, macho style that has become his trademark, "I love Fidel Castro.... I respect Fidel Castro. You know why? A lot of people have wanted to kill Fidel Castro for the last sixty years, but that son of a b-- is still here." Guillen was immediately suspended for five games for his comments.
Given that Guillen manages in Miami and given that the team just opened a new $2 billion taxpayer-funded stadium, the comments elicited an all-too-predictable firestorm. To be clear, I have no problem with what Guillen said.
Castro's ability to survive since Eisenhower was President of the United States is remarkable. I also have no problem with South Florida's well-connected rightwing Cuban community flexing its muscle in an effort to denounce Guillen. Free speech doesn't mean freedom from criticism.
I do have a tremendous problem, though, with the Miami Marlins franchise suspending Guillen for five games without pay.
I do have a problem with Guillen becoming yet another person from the world of sports who gets fined and has his job threatened for daring to have something political to say.
I have a problem with Guillen having to grovel like a broken man at a press conference that was missing only a stockade. Guillen had to say, "I am here on my knees. …