In his first year as manager of the Florida ball club, Guillen did not exactly endear to himself to the fans, many of whom are Cuban exiles. In an interview with Time magazine, Guillen said he loved the Cuban dictator. He was quoted in USA Today
as telling the Time reporter,
I respect Fidel Castro. You know why? A lot of people have wanted to kill Fidel Castro for the last 60 years but that SOB is still alive.
The Marlins, who opened a new park this season in Miami's Little Havana area, were quick to denounced their manager. Reported by WTSP TV
, the club issued a statement that read,
There is nothing to respect about Fidel Castro. He is a brutal dictator who has caused unthinkable pain for more than 50 years. We live in a community filled with victims of this dictatorship, and the people in Cuba continue to suffer today.
On Saturday, the day after Guillen's comments became public, the manager apologized. In Cincinnati, prior to the Marlins game against the Reds, the manager met with reporters. He told them when he read his comments in Time he felt sick because he knew how people would react. Guillen is quoted in the National Post
I will apologize if I hurt someone's feelings or I hurt someone's thought. I want them to know I'm against everything 100 per cent – I repeat it again – the way the man [has been] treating people for the last 60 years.
To many baseball fans, this is just a case of Ozzie being Ozzie. The Venezuelan-born former player got into hot water for praising Hugo Chavez. And in 2006, while managing the Chicago White Sox, Guillen was fined and forced to take sensitivity training after using a homophobic slur in describing a Chicago columnist.
But many Cuban Americans are not accepting his apology. Vilgilia Mambisa, an anti-Castro, anti-communist group in Miami is planning a boycott of Marlins games until Guillen either quits or is fired. NBC's Miami affiliate
is reporting although the Marlins will be in Philadelphia tomorrow, the group plans to demonstrate in front of Marlins Park to demand the Guillen be fired.
Time will tell if the boycott will be sufficient to put pressure on the club.