Manager Ozzie Guillen was suspended by the Miami Marlins for five games after making comments in support of former Cuban President Fidel Castro.
Guillen, a Venezuelan who has lived in Miami for a decade, apologized at a news conference in the Marlins’ stadium this morning.
“Today will be the last time that this person talks about politics,” Guillen said near the end of the 49-minute televised session. “This was a very bad moment. I learned a lot.”
Guillen told Time magazine for an article was released on April 5 that “I love Fidel Castro,” before clarifying his comments, according to the magazine.
“The Marlins acknowledge the seriousness of the comments attributed to Guillen,” the Major League Baseball team said in a statement today. “The pain and suffering caused by Fidel Castro cannot be minimized, especially in a community filled with victims of the dictatorship.”
The population of Miami-Dade County, which helped fund the Marlins’ new ballpark after a decade of negotiations, is 34 percent Cuban, according to the 2010 U.S. Census. In the city of Miami, where Marlins Park is located, there are 137,301 people of Cuban origin out of a total population of 399,457, also 34 percent. Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez were among those condemning the remarks.
Guillen addressed the media today without any members of the Marlins franchise by his side or overseeing the event. Outside, members of the Cuban-American community protested.
“I feel like I betrayed to my Latin community and I’m here to say I’m sorry with my heart in my hands, and I want to say sorry to all those people that I hurt indirectly or directly,” Guillen said in Spanish during an almost five-minute opening statement, which was translated by ESPN.
Guillen flew back to Miami after the Marlins’ 6-2 win at the Philadelphia Phillies yesterday, telling reporters that he felt “guilty” and “embarrassed.”
“I respect Fidel Castro,” Guillen told Time. “You know why? A lot of people have wanted to kill Fidel Castro for the last 60 years, but that mother-----r is still here.”
Guillen said today that a communication gap during his interview led to his comments being taken out of context.
“What I wanted to say was that I was surprised that Fidel Castro was in power for so long,” Guillen said. “A lot was missing in the translation.”
The Marlins, who hired Guillen in September and last week opened the $515 million stadium in the Little Havana section of downtown Miami, said in an April 6 statement that the manager’s comments didn’t reflect the opinion of the team.
“There is nothing to respect about Fidel Castro,” the team said in the statement. “He is 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.”
Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig said today in an e-mailed statement that he supported the team’s suspension of Guillen.
“Baseball is a social institution with important social responsibilities,” Selig said. “All of our 30 clubs play significant roles within their local communities, and 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.”
Gimenez said in a statement yesterday that he joined his community and “all freedom-loving people in condemning” Guillen’s comments.
“For too long, the Marlins organization has been the source of controversies in our community and I now challenge them to take decisive steps to bring this community back together,” Gimenez said.
Castro, 85, stepped down as president of Cuba in 2008. He had been the country’s leader since 1959.
ESPN reported that a Cuban-American advocacy group in Miami, Vigilia Mambisa, has said it would boycott and demonstrate against Guillen until the Marlins fire him.
Guillen was manager of the Chicago White Sox for eight years before joining the Marlins, who sent Chicago two minor-league prospects as compensation for releasing him from his contract. He led the White Sox to a 678-617 record, winning the World Series in 2005.
The 48-year-old Guillen has gotten in trouble for previous comments. In 2006, he used profanity and a homosexual slur in describing Chicago Sun-Times columnist Jay Mariotti before apologizing the following day.
The Marlins, who play in Philadelphia tomorrow and the next day, return to Miami on April 13 to begin a series against the Houston Astros.
Guillen also said on April 5 that his routine during road trips is to get drunk at the hotel bar after games, according to CBSSports.com.
“I get drunk because I’m happy we win or I get drunk because I’m very sad and disturbed because we lose,” Guillen said, according to the website. “Same routine, it never changes. It’s been the same routine for 25, 28 years. It doesn’t change. I don’t like to go out.”