Why Ozzie Guillen Is NOT Protected By The 1st Amendment
You’ve read the remarks by now:
“I love Fidel Castro. I respect Fidel Castro. You know why? A lot of people have wanted to kill Fidel Castro for the last 60 years, but that (expletive) is still there.”
That’s from a subscriber-only article in Time. Ken Rosenthal has written that in the context of how Fidel Castro is viewed in South Florida, the Marlins need to do more than have Ozzie Guillen apologize at his news conference tomorrow, that they need to suspend him for as much as a month.
A predominant response from fans who – correctly, I think – believe we have gotten to the point where we take everything either too seriously or not seriously enough, has been “What happened to Ozzie’s free speech? What about the 1st Amendment?”
Well – what about it?
Ever read it?
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
That’s the whole thing. In case you think there’s a hidden meaning in there somewhere protecting Ozzie Guillen’s – oryour -right to say whatever he wants without consequences from his employers or his community: No.
Translation of the cornerstone of the Bill of Rights, the 1st Amendment to our Constitution to the current mess?
Congress shall make no law abridging Ozzie Guillen’s freedom of speech.
His bosses? They can abridge it all they want.
Ironically, the heavy-handedness of local politicians trying to capitalize on the situation may serve to protect Ozzie. The Chairman of the Board of Commissioners of Miami-Dade wants Guillen to resign, or to be fired. “To say you respect Fidel Castro,” writes Joe A. Martinez, “suggests he also respects dictators such as Hugo Chavez, Daniel Ortega, Adolf Hitler and Sadam Hussein.”
The hell it does.
Ozzie is guilty of praising Castro’s longevity, in much the same kind of way he would praise Jamie Moyer if he threw a 4-hit shutout against the Marlins. But there are third rails, and in South Florida, Castro is viewed as the destroyer of lives, the ruination of the homeland, the man who separated families, tortured opponents, the man who sent would-be refugees to drown or be eaten by sharks, and sent a country back to 1947.
There are survivors, and the relatives of those who didn’t survive, and one of the things they don’t want to hear is that there’s anything good about Castro. And I can’t blame them. You can’t view this exclusively from your own perspective. You need to remember that much of the geographical area the Marlins represent view what has happened to Cuba since 1959 the way Israel views its more belligerent neighbors – or worse.
The usually hip Deadspin was particularly tone-deaf on this:
I’m not Cuban, nor have I ever been to Miami so I don’t know how this played out among that population, but I would just say this…
No, don’t. The 1st Amendment doesn’t protect you either, Bud.
If the Marlins don’t act decisively, one anti-Castro group plans to picket and protest the team until Guillen is out, or Castro leaves office, or both – In which case Ozzie had better hope he has completely misjudged the dictator’s longevity. One assumes a serious suspension would tamp down the fire pretty quickly.
There are a lot of arguments here, but the one to leave out involves wrapping Guillen in the 1st Amendment. It might be nice (or it might be disastrous) if we all had some kind of private immunity from controversial statements, but we clearly don’t.