Marlins Manager Suspended Over Comments about Fidel Castro

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The Miami Marlins suspended manager Ozzie Guillen for five games, effective immediately, on Tuesday, just before Guillen apologized for recent comments praising Cuba’s Fidel Castro.

Guillen sparked a firestorm when he told Time magazine recently that he respected Castro for being able to lead Cuba for six decades.

“I respect Fidel Castro,” Guillen said in the article. “You know why? A lot of people have wanted to kill Fidel Castro for the last 60 years, but that son of a bitch is still there.”

Guillen apologized during a press conference Tuesday, first speaking in Spanish, saying that he had “betrayed a Latin community” and that he was speaking to “ask for forgiveness with my heart in my hand.”

But, he said, he originally spoke of Castro in Spanish and “the translation to English was a bit confusing.”

In response to questions in English on Tuesday, Guillen said he was “very stupid” to make comments outside of baseball.

“Politics has nothing to do with sports,” Guillen said.

“This is the biggest mistake so far in my life,” he said.

Guillen said with the comments he’d let down the community.

“I’m very, very, very sorry,” he said. “I will do everything in my power to make it better.”

“I live in Miami, my family is in Miami,” he said. “I will do everything in my power … to help this community like I always do.”

“I’m sitting here very embarrassed and very sad,” he said at the press conference.

“I’m gonna be a Miami guy for the rest of my life,” Guillen said. “I want to walk in the street with my head up and not feel as bad as I feel right now.”

Guillen pledged to follow through on his promises to help out in Miami’s Latin and Cuban communities.

“I’m going to be behind them 100%,” he said.

He said he wanted to be with the team, which plays in Philadelphia again on Wednesday, but would not fight the suspension.

“I cannot complain about anything because I am not in a position to complain about anything they want to do with me,” he said.

Guillen said he showed poor judgement, but not lack of intelligence, with the original Castro comments.

“You don’t have this job if you’re dumb,” he said. “If I don’t learn from this, I will call myself dumb.”

The team said Tuesday the original comments were hurtful.

“The pain and suffering caused by Fidel Castro cannot be minimized in a community filled with victims of the dictatorship,” the team said in a statement before Guillen’s press conference.

Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig said the suspension of Guillen was appropriate.

“I expect those who represent Major League Baseball to act with the kind of respect and sensitivity that the game’s many cultures deserve. Mr. Guillen’s remarks, which were offensive to an important part of the Miami community and others throughout the world, have no place in our game,” Selig said in a statement.

Guillen earlier in the week said he had apologized to Cuban-Americans in the Marlins organization, including Spanish-language broadcasters Felo Ramirez and Yiki Quintana, as well as Cuban-born Phillies pitcher Jose Contreras, ESPN reported.

The Marlins released a statement saying there was nothing to respect about Castro, “a brutal dictator who has caused unthinkable pain for more than 50 years. We live in a community filled with victims of this dictatorship, and the people in Cuba continue to suffer today.”

Guillen backtracked on Sunday and apologized to anyone he offended with the Castro remark, telling the Palm Beach Post that he is “against everything, 100%,” regarding Castro’s reign in Cuba.

Elaborating on his use of the term, “respect,” he said, “I respect (President) Obama, I respect (Venezuelan President Hugo) Chavez because I always respect people.”

Perhaps lost in the controversy were Guillen’s remarks late last week that for a quarter century or more he has gotten drunk and gone to sleep after every game.

“I’ve got my routine. Game’s over, stay in the lobby of the hotel, the hotel bar, get drunk and go to sleep,” he told the Palm Beach Post.

“I get drunk because I’m happy because we won or get drunk because I’m very sad and disturbed because we lose. Same routine for 25, 28 years. It hasn’t changed. I don’t like to go out.”

Guillen was named the Marlins manager on September 28. He previously managed the Chicago White Sox for eight years, including leading them to the 2005 World Series title.

He is a native of Venezuela and became a U.S. citizen in 2006.