Controversial Miami Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen apologized today for remarks to Time magazine in which he seemed to praise Cuban leader Fidel Castro, calling his comments “stupid and naive.”
“I love Fidel Castro.” Time reported Guillen as saying in the article. “I respect Fidel Castro, you know why? A lot of people have wanted to kill Fidel Castro for the last 60 years, but that motherf****r is still here.”
Guillen attempted to clarify his remarks in the news conference today, saying he was misquoted because of a language barrier. “What I meant in Spanish, I was talking in Spanish, was that I cannot believe somebody who hurt so many people over the years is still alive,” he said today.
Guillen apologized profusely throughout the conference, which was conducted in a mixture of English and Spanish. “I apologize to the people here to everyone who’s looking at me,” he said. “I will do everything to make it better. … I know it’s going to be a bumpy ride.”
The Marlins manager, 48, went on to say that he wanted to move forward from the comments, which he called “the biggest mistake of my life.”
“I am willing to do everything in my power, the Marlins power, to help the Cuban community the Latino community, like I always do,” said Guillen, a former Major League shortstop from Venezuela who played for four teams in a 15-year career.
Guillen, who has been suspended for five games without pay by the Marlins for the incident, said he respects the decision, adding that money “is the last thing I’m thinking about right now.”
As for the team, it released a statement today, saying, “The Marlins acknowledge 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 outspoken manager is no stranger to controversy, having raised the ire of players, coaches, gay rights activists, illegal immigration opponents and Venezuelans in the past. Throughout his tenure as manager, he has been criticized for, among other things:
• Using a gay slur while referring to a local sports columnist. Guillen later apologized to the gay community, but not the columnist.
• Praising Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez and appearing on his radio show in 2005.
• Speaking out against Arizona’s strict illegal immigration law in 2010. He was quoted as saying that “this country can’t survive without [immigrants]. There are a lot of people from this country who are lazy. A lot of people in this country want to be on the computer and send emails to people. We do the hard work.”
But praising Fidel Castro in the city of Miami, which has a large Cuban-American population, seems even to Guillen to have gone a step too far. “I am a sport man and a sport man should not be involved in politics,” he said at the news conference today. “I have to let the Cuban community know that I’m really sorry. I have to apologize because I did the wrong thing.”