The Miami Marlins announced Tuesday morning that the team has suspended manager Ozzie Guillen for five games effective immediately after his comments about Fidel Castro.
In a news conference on Tuesday during which he began by speaking Spanish, Guillen said he felt like he had betrayed the Latin American community, especially Cuban Americans, and repeatedly asked for forgiveness “with my heart in my hand and on bended knees.”
“I’m very embarrassed. I’m very sad,” Guillen said.
“I let the ballclub down.”
Guillen said his comments on Time’s website about Castro were misintrepreted.
“It was misintrepreted by what I mean in Spanish,” he said. Guillen said he was trying to say that he couldn’t believe that someone who has hurt so many “is still in power” and added he did not share Castro’s ideology.
Time magazine issued this statement: “Time’s interview with Ozzie Guillen was conducted entirely in English. We stand by our story.”
The Marlins acknowledged the “seriousness of the comments” attributed to Guillen.
“The pain and suffering caused by Fidel Castro cannot be minimized, especially in a community filled with victims of the dictatorship,” the team said in Tuesday’s statement.
Guillen said he accepts his five-game suspension and added he would not resign.
“Now I’m just going to focus on winning games.”
Guillen, the Miami Marlins’ first-year manager, has come under criticism locally after saying he has respect for Castro and “I love Fidel Castro,’’ in an interview with Time magazine.
He has since apologized for those comments, but that hasn’t stopped mushrooming outcry from some South Florida Cuban Americans, a group his ballclub hopes will fill the team’s new Little Havana stadium in coming years.
“Ozzie is quick at the mouth; always has been,” said Andy Gomez, an assistant provost and senior fellow at the Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies at the University of Miami. “He’s a great manager, but he should stick to something he knows.”
Gomez offered to give Guillen a private tutorial on Castro and Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez (whom Guillen also has previously praised, then later criticized)
At the news conference Tuesday, Guillen denied ever having said “Viva Chavez,” as seen in a YouTube video. He said one of his son’s friends standing behind him made the statement.
Gomez stopped short of demanding the coach’s job. Others feel otherwise about them manager’s fate.
People gathered outside Marlins Park to voice their protest to Guillen’s comments, some carrying signs expressing their disgust. Scores of protestors shouted, “Liar, liar,” after the news conference.
“There are so many good people in the country. We could get anyone,” said Elena Soutullo, 60. She says that five-game suspension isn’t enough “because the offense is too big.”
“We don’t need a guy like that teaching our children that kind of behavior. I won’t allow my children, grandchildren, to watch the games if he stays.”
Before Guillen started speaking, one turned his body into a two-sided billboard, writing “No excuses – Fire him now” on one placard and on the other, “Mr. [David] Samson, Do you still keep Guillen if he had said, ‘I love Hitler’?” Samson is the Marlins’ team president. Neither Samson nor owner Jeffrey Loria sat next to Guillen during Tuesday’s grilling by English and Spanish-language media members. More than a dozen video cameras perched atop tripods lined the back of the room, and the 60-some-odd seats Marlins staff set up for reporters were not enough.
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