Admit it, that's why we liked the guy.
Finally, someone who spoke his mind and seemed immune to any potential consequences. He was the anti-Michael Jordan, a sports figure who didn't stop to consider whether he was hurting his image or losing out on endorsements or potentially offending his employers.
He certainly wasn't thinking of the ramifications when he said to Time, "I love Fidel Castro," then, amending himself somewhat, added, "I respect Fidel Castro. You know why? A lot of people have wanted to kill Fidel Castro for the last 60 years, but that (expletive) is still here."
Foolish words, to be sure, especially since he now works in a city where millions of Cubans fled to escape the persecution of Castro's often-brutal regime.
But Guillen doesn't deserve the same fate as Petrino.
The Marlins manager never said he agrees with Castro's policies or even delved into a touchy political issue: Whether a half-century of giving a cold shoulder to Cuba while dealing with countries that have done things as bad or worse to their own people is still a useful policy. This sounded more like amazement that a geriatric dictator has managed to hang on to power, even while faced with a stifling U.S. economic boycott, assassination plots that have bordered on the ludicrous, not to mention the fall of his Communist backers in Eastern Europe.
Actually, with a slightly different intro, Guillen could've been expressing the frustration of every U.S. president since Kennedy, not to mention those millions of Cuban expatriates who long to return to their homeland right across the Straits of Florida.
Here's hoping Guillen keeps his job while learning a valuable lesson about his adopted homeland: The First Amendment espouses a lofty ideal, but it's not a blank check.
As everyone from the Dixie Chicks to Rush Limbaugh has discovered, that clause they added to the Constitution works both ways. If someone doesn't like what we say, they have a right to take to the streets, demanding that we be fired or suspended or boycotted. Plenty of Cuban-Americans did just that, threatening never to attend another Marlins game as long as Guillen is the team's manager.
But those who shout the loudest should remember this: They left Cuba in the name of freedom, for the right to speak their mind without fear of persecution. Now, they're trying to get someone fired for doing the very same thing.
Seems a bit un-American, don't you think?
Paul Newberry is a national writer for The Associated Press. Write to him at pnewberry(at)ap.org or www.twitter.com/pnewberry1963
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