Ozzie Guillen is getting ready to address the media in Miami.
As his press conference approaches, word has broken that the Marlins are suspending Guillen for five games based on comments Guillen made about Fidel Castro to Time magazine.
First off, the importance of location cannot be understated. As Rick Telander wrote this morning, Guillen made similar comments in 2008. No one cared when Guillen represented the White Sox in Chicago. Now Guillen represents the Marlins in Cuban-heavy Miami. Thus, the comments are taken far more seriously and with good reason given the atrocious history of Castro that so many Cuban-Americans fled at the risk of death.
Secondly, the context of the current political climate in Miami should also not be understated. Many folks in Miami are not too enthralled that the city is paying for the new stadium in Little Havana. Something tells me they’ve just been waiting to seize on something negative regarding the Marlins, and this is perfect.
Thirdly, with so many of the Marlins’ targeted market of fans taking extreme offense and exception with Guillen’s comments, this is a way for the franchise to show that they hear and respect these concerns. Even if the Marlins do not necessarily think a suspension is warranted, I can see how they might think it’s still prudent, in a business sense, all things considered, especially when they are desperate to build a loyal fan base in a city where baseball has had trouble gaining a stronghold despite two World Series titles.
Fourth, Guillen is a loose cannon. Maybe drawing a line in the sand will help keep him in check? I’m not sure about this one. It could backfire too. Only time will tell.
But all in all, I can see why the Marlins are suspending Ozzie. It may seem silly, but it cannot be properly viewed without the complete context, which I think makes it reasonable.
I want to add a quick update based on a few Twitter conversations I’ve had since posting this.
Freedom of speech has NOTHING to do with why Ozzie’s comments are a story. Nothing. The First Amendment protects our speech from the government; it does mean that we can say whatever we want free of consequences.
Ozzie’s comments about Fidel Castro cannot lead to his arrest, but they certainly can lead to strong negative reactions from other people who exercise their right to free speech in expressing offense or outrage. That’s what has happened.
The Marlins are not a government agency. They are a business entity. If they want to suspend Guillen because his words hurt their business by offending one of the franchise’s largest segments of potential customers, that is their prerogative based on whatever is in his contract.
So please do not comment below regarding freedom of speech. It makes no difference here, except that nothing anyone is saying can get them arrested.