Updated at 10:22 a.m. with suspension
Shortly before Miami Marlins Manager Ozzie Guillen was to address his controversial comments about Cuban leader Fidel Castro, the team suspended him for five games, a measure of just how deeply his remarks resonated in South Florida.
“The Marlins acknowledge the seriousness of the comments attributed to Guillen,” the team said in a statement. “The pain and suffering caused by Fidel Castro cannot be minimized especially in a community filled with victims of the dictatorship.”
Guillen, in a Time.com interview, said, “I love Fidel Castro” and respects him. Although Guillen apologized over the weekend and again Monday, he will return to Miami on the Marlins’ off-day today to speak with the media at 10:30 a.m. EDT and, he hopes, citizens.
There have been calls for Guillen’s resignation or his suspension and ESPN’s Buster Olney reports that Major League Baseball will look into the comments. There is precedent for a suspension by the league. Marge Schott, former owner of the Cincinnati Reds, was banned from ownership from 1996-98 after she said “Adolf Hitler was good at the beginning, then went too far.” (She had also used homophobic and racial slurs.)
Guillen’s remarks came at a particularly sensitive time for the Marlins, who are trying to establish a solid base in Miami. The team just moved into a new $634-million ballpark that was funded mostly by taxpayers in Little Havana and, under owner Jeffrey Loria, was trying to re-establish itself.
Spanish-language radio stations popular with older Cuban Americans were flooded with calls after Guillen’s remarks were reported. “It’s so outrageous, they have to start by buying a new brain for Guillen because every time he opens his mouth, he offends somebody,” Ninoska Pérez Castellón, an activist and radio host with Radio Mambí, told the Miami Herald.
Among other matters, Guillen no doubt will be asked about a Men’s Journal interview in 2008 in which he said similar things about Castro.