Anyone familiar with baseball knows Ozzie Guillen’s mouth has run faster than his head throughout most of his professional playing and managing career. Oswaldo José Guillén Barrios or Ozzie, as the sports world knows him, has experienced success at every level of professional baseball while managing to entertain sports fans with numerous quotes and rants. As a manager, Guillen led the 2005 Chicago White Sox to their first World Series title since World War I. However, all the success in the world couldn’t keep Ozzie out of hot water after his comments regarding Cuban dictator Fidel Castro.
Guillen was traded to the newly rebranded Miami Marlins during the past offseason not only to help the club win but to keep the Marlins on the front page with his outspoken personality; and it was this outspoken personality that led to the infamous quote in a TIME article.
"I love Fidel Castro.” Any person could say the same thing and most people couldn’t care less. It was the fact that Guillen is the face of a sports franchise with its stadium in Little Havana. By stating his affection for Fidel Castro, Guillen, perhaps inadvertently, spat on the efforts of Cubans who fled the reign of Castro. Castro is responsible for sending hundreds of Cubans to the firing squad, forced them swim the Gulf of Mexico and continues to keep the Cuban population in constant fear. Some have compared Castro to Hitler, although I personally think the comparison is a stretch.
What this boils down to is how the First Amendment is applied in this case. The First Amendment does protect people from the government in that a person cannot be prosecuted, arrested or jailed for political speech, among other types of speech. However, what tripped up Guillen is that the First Amendment does not protect you in the work place and more importantly in court of public opinion. The outraged Cuban community has threatened to boycott the Marlins games until Guillen is fired. MLB responded not so much out of opposition to the statements Guillen made but the backlash caused by the comments. For his profession of love for Castro, MLB slapped Guillen on the wrist with a 5 game suspension. What’s more disturbing than Guillen’s comments or the backlash it caused is the response by MLB.
Restricting speech is within the right of every company but does MLB really want to be the employer that restricts speech, more importantly political speech? When the Founding Fathers wrote and ratified the Constitution, they added the Bill of Rights and the First Amendment to protect political speech above all else. In 1924, the Supreme Court confirmed that indeed political speech was the most important form of speech. Although commercial speech gained more protection later, the importance of political speech cannot be dismissed.
Can you imagine facing a leave of absence for supporting a Democrat or Republican? Or idolizing generals such as Alexander the Great or Napoleon, who both caused thousands of unnecessary deaths through unnecessary wars? While the comparison seems outlandish, it has merit in the fact that political speech, no matter how right or wrong, needs to be respected as long as it doesn’t impose on the rights of another. Guillen’s statement didn’t impose on the Cuban community’s ability to pursue life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, therefore his only judgment should have been in the court of public opinion. What I find hypocritical is the fact that Cubans who’ve emigrated from a country where political speech can get you executed now live in a country where free speech is cherished yet they want to restrict the speech of an individual who simply spoke his mind.