Thingish Things

Free Ozzie — or Fire Him

Written By: William F. B. O'Reilly - Apr• 10•12

I’m for hating Fidel Castro as much as the next guy — he is a murderous prick as far as I’m concerned — but what’s with the Florida Marlins suspending Manager Ozzie Guillen for saying nice things about the Cuban dictator?  They should have fired Mr. Guillen or done nothing and weathered the PR maelstrom. A suspension makes no sense.

Free speech still applies in America.  So do free markets. Mr. Guillen has every right to voice his political opinions, and the Florida Marlins have every right to fire a manager who doesn’t reflect the team’s values — or, as it were, the values of a substantial portion of its market share. The Marlins could have said: “We respect Mr. Guillen’s First Amendment rights, but he should practice them representing some other team. Or “we disagree with what Mr. Guillen said, but what does that have to do with baseball?”

But they didn’t. Instead they decided to punish Mr. Guillen in an ostensibly measured way for his point of view with a five-day suspension. I wonder what the Venezuelan native would have received for praising Franco or Mussolini or Pol Pot?

Punishing someone for his opinion is un-American.  Firing is not.  That boils down to principle and organizational values. But  when one punishes someone for his words, one necessarily needs to answer some slippery-slope questions: Who decides whether a.) What the manager said was objectively offensive and to whom; b.) Who decides the level of punishment to mete out? , and  c.) Would  Mr. Guillen’s words be a punishable offense on a different franchise and in a different media market? In parts of California criticizing Castro might land one in the penalty box.

The Marlins clearly made this decision in a PR meeting. The team hopes the five-day suspension will ease tensions in the Cuban-American community. But in punishing Mr.Guillen thusly, they are trampling on his Constitutional right to free speech and that makes things worse.  It sets a terrible precedent in professional sports. 

The Marlins should take it all the way, or back up their manager.

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