Miami Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen was suspended for five games for saying he idolized Fidel Castro, the New York Times reported this week. He said he respected Castro for his ability to endure, despite numerous attempts on his life. In previous interviews, he said he did not admire Castro’s philosophy, but the man himself.
Guillen has also gotten in trouble in the past for making homophobic slurs. However, the consequences for admitting admiration for the Cuban dictator are likely to be far more serious and long lasting. By doing so, Guillen has offended Miami’s gusano (anti-Castro immigrants) population and the U.S. government, which still considers Cuba to be an arch enemy.
Never mind that in most of the world, including Guillen’s native Venezuela, Castro is not a controversial person in the slightest. Sure, he was a repressive dictator, but this should not be a problem for a nation that has admired, supported and funded dictators throughout the world, including Castro’s bloody predecessor Bautista.
Likewise, all sorts of reprehensible people have been publicly admired throughout history with far fewer consequences. Hell, the Nobel Prize Committee routinely awards peace prizes to terrorists, autocrats and national leaders who flaunt international law and engage in wars of agression (e.g., Henry Kissinger, Yasser Arafat, Yitzhak Rabin, Mikhail Gorbachev, Anwar Sadat, Menachem Begin, Woodrow Wilson, Barack Obama).
The attacks on Guillen by the local and national press and legislators are what one might expect had he admitted admiration for Hitler or Stalin, or denied the Holocaust. His admission was clearly a dumb move in a city full of Gusanos, but not a justification for any sort of punitive action and certainly not on this scale. What if he had admitted an admiration for Cap Anson, one of the greatest baseball players of the late 19th century and also one of the major influences in establishing racial segregation in the sport? What if he had admitted admiration for Ty Cobb or Rogers Hornsby, two of the greatest hitters of all time and also infamous racists? It is unlikely he would have gotten into trouble at all.