MIAMI — The Miami Marlins have suspended manager Ozzie Guillen for five games for comments he made in which he expressed admiration for Cuban leader Fidel Castro.
“The Marlins acknowledge the seriousness of the comments attributed to Guillen,” the team said in a prepared statement announcing the move. “The pain and suffering caused by Fidel Castro cannot be minimized especially in a community filled with victims of the dictatorship.”
ESPN Radio on Ozzie Guillen
On ESPN Radio’s “Mike and Mike in the Morning,” Dan LeBatard discusses the reaction to Ozzie Guillen’s comments in Miami and the pain they’ve caused in the city’s Cuban-American community. Listen
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Speaking in Spanish on Tuesday morning in Miami, Guillen apologized to the city, its Cuban-American community and all Latin Americans for the comments, which were published on Time magazine’s website last week.
“I feel like I betrayed my Latin community,” Guillen said, according to ESPN’s translation of his comments in Spanish. “I am here to say I am sorry with my heart in my hands and I want to say I’m sorry to all those people who are hurt indirectly or directly.”
“I’m sorry for what I said and for putting people in a position they don’t need to be in. And for all the Cuban families, I’m sorry,” he said, according to ESPN’s translation. “I hope that when I get out of here, they will understand who Ozzie Guillen is. How I feel for them. And how I feel about the Fidel Castro dictatorship. I’m here to face you, person to person. It’s going to be a very difficult time for me.”
Major League Baseball was reviewing the situation, a source told ESPN The Magazine’s Buster Olney.
Guillen told Time magazine for an article published last week that he loves Castro and respects him for staying in power for so long.
On Tuesday, Guillen said repeatedly that he does not admire Castro. He said when the comments were made, he was talking about how he was surprised Castro was able to remain in power so long, given the number of people he had hurt since taking power.
“The interpretation didn’t come out as I wanted,” Guillen said in Spanish, according to ESPN’s translation. “I was thinking in Spanish and I said the wrong thing in English.”
Asked how the statement “I love Fidel Castro” could be misconstrued, Guillen once again said he was talking about how surprised he was that Castrol had been able to stay in power for so long.
“Everybody in the world hates Fidel Castro, including myself,” Guillen said. “I was surprised that he’s still in power. That’s what I was trying to say to the journalist. And that’s the first thing that came out of my mouth. I admit it. It was the wrong words.”
A Cuban-American advocacy group in Miami, Vigilia Mambisa, has said it would boycott and demonstrate against Guillen until the Marlins fire him.
After the comment was published, the Marlins subsequently issued a statement clarifying that the organization has no respect for Castro, calling him “a brutal dictator who has caused unthinkable pain for more than 50 years.”
Tuesday, Guillen said he respected the Marlins’ decision to suspend him and was not concerned about the salary he would lose in the process, because repairing his relationship with the Cuban-American community was more important.
“I will do everything to try to make things be better,” he said. “I’m willing to do everything in my power, in the Marlins power, to do everything I can to help this community.”
Speaking to a packed audience in the media room at Marlins Park, the team’s brand-new stadium, Guillen remembered being in the ballpark for Opening Day and what a happy occasion that was. “Now, I’m sitting here a few days later very embarrassed. Very sad,” he said.
Marlins president David Samson and president of baseball operations Larry Beinfest were also in attendance. A crowd of protesters gathered outside the stadium to watch on a giant video screen.
“This is the biggest mistake of my life. When you make a mistake this big … I will learn from this,” he said.
Guillen said he was disappointed that he let his players down and asked that the team and the organization not be blamed for his mistake.
“I’ll be back after five games. I just hope they do their job. What else can I say? Keep playing and I’m going to try to put this problem behind me,” he said.
It’s not the first time that Guillen has praised Castro publicly. In a Men’s Journal interview in 2008, Guillen was asked to name the toughest man he knows.
“Fidel Castro,” he said. “He’s a bull—- dictator and everybody’s against him, and he still survives, has power. Still has a country behind him. Everywhere he goes they roll out the red carpet. I don’t admire his philosophy. I admire him.”
Guillen, who is from Venezuela but became a United States citizen in 2006, also praised controversial Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez in 2005. He had appeared on the leader’s radio show twice and when asked about it, he said: “Not too many people like the president. I do.”
Guillen has since been critical of Chavez. During his first news conference as Marlins manager in September, he bristled at a suggestion he supports Chavez.
“Don’t tell my wife that, because she hates that man. She hates him to death,” Guillen said. “I supported Chavez? If I was supporting Chavez, do you think I would be manager of the Marlins? I never supported Chavez.”
Tuesday, Guillen was asked several times about Chavez. He said he doesn’t support Chavez, who sees himself as a protege of Castro, and that he writes for a newspaper in Venezuela that is anti-Chavez.
Guillen’s outspoken manner has gotten him into trouble in the past. In 2006, he was fined and ordered to undergo sensitivity training by Major League Baseball after using a gay slur during a rant aimed at a Chicago-area newspaper columnist.
Information from ESPN.com baseball writer Jayson Stark, ESPN The Magazine’s Buster Olney, ESPNChicago baseball reporter Bruce Levine and The Associated Press was used in this report.
Marlins suspend manager Guillen five games
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