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Baseball is my favorite sport, but this year the umpire had barely hollered “play ball” for the first game of the season before the poohbahs of the sport hurled a spitter at the U.S. Constitution.
They intended to throw a knock-down pitch at Ozzie Guillen, the brash new manager of the Miami Marlins who had just bobbled one of baseball’s big money plays. Team owners had been counting on the large community of Cuban exiles in Miami to generate record ticket sales this year for Marlins’ games. But, in an interview, Ozzie said, “I respect Fidel Castro.” He would’ve been better off shouting, “I love the devil,” for Castro is demonized in Miami’s Little Havana as worse than El Diablo.
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Many potential ticket-buyers exploded in fury at Guillen’s political incorrectness – so, panicked by the possibility of lost revenue, the owners condemned Ozzie, suspended him for five games, and rushed him out to make an abject apology. The commissioner of baseball solemnly decreed that Guillen’s comments “have no place in our game.”
But what about in our Bill of Rights? All Ozzie did was express an opinion. There was no hate speech, no endorsement of Castro’s repression, no condemnation of Cuban-Americans – just an unpopular political viewpoint. Ironically, some angry opponents of that viewpoint even waved American flags in protest, apparently unaware that the flag is an emblem of our nation’s cherished protection of speech – even speech that offends the majority in a particular community.
But rather than swing for the Constitutional fences, Guillen meekly sat on the bench. Sports figures, he said, “should not be involved in politics.” Holy Jackie Robinson! What an unAmerican lesson for our kids: To “play ball” kiddos, you must go with the crowd and stick to the money game. Not exactly a profiles-in-courage moment.
“In Miami, Winning Clearly Isn’t the Only Thing,” The New York Times, April 11, 2012.
“In Miami, contrite Guillen apologizes,” April 11, 2012.
“The Marlins Punish Political Speech,” The New York Times, April 11, 2012.