The 1st Amendment, The 2nd Praising Of Castro, and Five Games

This is revised and updated from the previous post:

Minutes into his five-game unpaid suspension for having praised Fidel Castro in a community filled with, and animated by, people who think Castro comparable to Hitler, Manager Ozzie Guillen of the Miami Marlins tried to explain that he had hoped to say he was surprised Castro had stayed in power so long, and that someone who had hurt so many over so many years was still alive.

The problem is, it turns out he had made similar remarks about Castro four years ago in which he renounced Castro’s politics and called him a dictator and still ended by saying “I admire him.”

Miami Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen pauses as he speaks at a news conference at Marlins Stadium in Miami, Tuesday April 10, 2012. (AP / Lynne Sladky)

As Rick Telander of the Chicago Sun-Times noted late last night, he interviewed Guillen, the managing the White Sox for a Men’s Journal Q-and-A:

And I asked him this: “Who’s the toughest man you know?’’

His response, which took me by surprise: “Fidel Castro.’’


“He’s a bull—- dictator and everybody’s against him, and he still survives, has power. Still has a country behind him,’’ Ozzie replied. “Everywhere he goes, they roll out the red carpet. I don’t admire his philosophy; I admire him.’’

That’s an added wrinkle, and it suggests the suspension may be insufficient, at least in terms of length. For some context: over a period of six or seven years, Cincinnati Reds’ owner Marge Schott had said something to offend virtually every group except The Visiting Nurse Association. She said Adolf Hitler “was good in the beginning, but went too far.” She had previously made antisemitic remarks, kept some Nazi trophies from her late husband’s service in World War II (not all that uncommon), bashed gays, blacks, Asians, and supposedly wanted to fire her manager Davey Johnson because he was living with his girlfriend. Major League Baseball – as opposed to just the team acting on Guillen – suspended her for two-and-a-half years and eventually applied enough pressure to get her to sell the franchise.

Flash forward to the remarks to Time Magazine for its newest issue:

“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.”

As the impeccable Amy K. Nelson live-tweeted from today’s apology news conference:

“Very embarrassed, very sad. I thought the next time I saw this room with this many people, there would be a World Series trophy next to me.”

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 Guillen’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 – or your -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.”

Not quite. Ozzie is guilty of praising (or admiring, or being astonished at, or being appalled by, depending on when you ask him) Castro’s longevity, in much the same kind of way he would’ve tried to 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.

The question remaining is: Is five games sufficient. A local anti-Castro group said yesterday it planned 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.


  1. sojourner28

    I think I am beginning to realize what Ozzie is trying to say, although I disagree. Is part of this problem a language barrier? His admiration for Catro’s longevity against all odds as opposed to admiration for the criminal he is? Ozzie said he hopes he has learned from this huge mistake. Only time will tell.

  2. PR_uno (@PR_uno)

    We all know that the confiscation of hundreds of millions of dollars and a blockade that have lasted for over 50 years have nothing to do with the economic situation in #Cuba today. Which has been made possible by the political and special interest of south Florida who are the descendants of the Batista regime. Who plundered the wealth of the country when they left the island.

  3. Lars Benders

    OK Keith. So we won’t view this in terms of free speech. As such, how do you respond to the Marlins statement? (via

    “The Marlins acknowledge the seriousness of the comments attributed to Guillen,” the Marlins said in a statement today. “The pain and suffering caused by Fidel Castro cannot be minimized especially in a community filled with victims of the dictatorship.”
    “There is nothing to respect about Fidel Castro,” the team said in the statement. “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.”

    So condemnation OK? Respect, not so much? What if this had been all about, oh, say Barack Obama? Or George W. Bush? Then is free speech involved?

  4. Steve Waterman (@StephenH2OMan)

    I don’t think anyone means to suggest that the First Amendment protects you from being fired from a private enterprise (you know that all too well), but rather that demanding a suspension for a recycled anecdote expressing amazement over a dictator’s political longevity is…well, stupid. And those in the media encouraging it should feel… well, stupid.

    It’s akin to me saying “I respect Keith Olbermann for continually finding employment. Sure, he’s hated by nearly everyone he’s worked for, but he’s always able to find that next sucker,” and someone demanding I be suspended for that.

  5. Tommybones

    This episode proves most Americans are utterly clueless about Cuba, Castro and the Batistanistas in south Florida.

  6. Rosalie

    I dont know, I must be really crazy or from another planet.. I feel these are words spoken by a man with no power over any of the peole who feel he insulted them. This is one man who said something that hurt feelings, he apoligized, and has been handed his punishment, and people still want to persecute him. If he had been belligerent about it, well then there stands a man who doesnt care about other human beings, this is not the case… Geeze, give the guy a break..

    • Jason Rowe (@Aqua_Buddah)

      It was the SECOND time he praised Castro in some way, ON THE RECORD, which means we likely don’t know the half of it. Anyway, it has less to do with whom he praised than whom he insulted by praising him. You will always find someone intellectualizing about Hitler, or Stalin, or some other sh*t-stain on history, and we will ALWAYS have to denounce them for it. Period. I don’t care if Stalin’s trains ran on-time, I don’t care whether Hitler gave Germany a warm-fuzzy before the Holocaust, and I could not care less how tough Castro is: Real people have suffered and died by the score because of these kind of men, and to be so tone-deaf as to praise them IN THE FACE of their vicitms and their families is beyond stupid.

  7. JT

    Once again a liberal only uses the 1st amendment starwman arguement when they can attack someone with it

    Can Guillen sue his bosses like you Olbermann? Your ratings stunk, you said idiotic things…yet you go after Guillen.

    Of course this isn’t a 1st amendment right….it’s a social media PC conversation. How far will the far left go in this country to rephrase quotes in order to persecute someone they feel is ‘not in line’?

    The irony of this story is that a not so controversial comment about not liking Castro’s philosophy but his perserverance, is twisted to make him evil.A strategy Cuba loved to use, now a keynote one in the last two administartions of this country.

    Anyway, I subsribed to this newsletter, cringing at the day your far left wacko ways will enter in…rather than just talk about baseball…happened and now I am out.

    I applaud Steve’s comment about you. You must at least be comnmended at finding work with your lack of talent and philosophy.

  8. Pingback: Dear Constitution « Trees & flowers & birds!
  9. Sam

    It seems like the only thing Americans are good at anymore is outrage (or poutrage). There are so many injustices people could march against but they choose to get worked up over a baseball manager. Most people in this country are struggling so much just to get by that they need these little controversies as a distraction from their worries about money, health, education, or just feeling at peace with where they are in life. We’re blasted this way and that by the attention-hungry (and money-hungry) media and their corporate sponsors. These very words I type are brought to you by someone, I’m sure.

  10. Pingback: Baseball Morality: You Can Lie to the Taxpayers You Steal Money From, But Just Don't You Go Talking About Fidel Castro! - Hit & Run : Reason Magazine
  11. Pingback: Keith was on The Dan Patrick Show today « Countdown with Keith Olbermann – Unofficial Fanblog
  12. Michael Green

    Anti-semitism from Marge Schott likened to Ozzie Guillen saying he respects Fidel Castro because he’s held on despite being terrible? Keith, you should be better than that. As far as I’m concerned, Castro is evil. But when Castro sets out to exterminate an entire group of people, I’ll see the comparison.

    Making up for that horrible comment, though, Keith made the important point about the First Amendment. I’d like to add in a thought from none other than Vincent Edward Scully, whom we Dodger fans today had to do without due to his having a bad cold–an Opening Day fright, we might say. Roy Firestone once interviewed Vin and asked what he thought of Deion Sanders saying he’d play only one sport instead of two if the one sport paid him as much as he makes playing two. Vin squirmed a bit, because he avoids controversy, but then he said that we hear a lot about our rights and they are important, but we don’t hear enough about our obligations. Deion Sanders had the right to say whatever he wanted, but he had an obligation not to. Vin said it better than anybody (on that, Keith would agree).

    • Erick

      Hmm.. I’m not sure about that but if you don’t go to the class connects for the clsesas your taking for k12 then it does effect your grades but there only an hour long and its helpful to go to them. I’m doing k12 and the teachers tell you that you need to go to the class connects. I think doing it will help you manage your time and you can get it done, then have the rest of the day for training. But it is a little harder. There is more hw but you have the whole day and weekend to get it done but do try and stay caught up because it will start piling up. :/ I think you should do k12. It is a little more flexible then pub school in my opinion(: Good luck and I hope I helped(:

  13. Steve

    Please, folks. This conversation would be all well and good if someone other than Guillen were the focus. This man is a moron. The only thing he knows anything about is baseball, and that’s pushing it. He even forgets the names of players on his own team! It’s as if none of you (and I include you, Keith) have heard any of his press conferences, where he gets laughs from sportswriters, and he thinks they’re laughing with him. Or maybe you’ve never seen one of his unreadable tweets. He is functionally illiterate.
    He was probably told that there were “a lot of Cubans” in Miami, and thought, “Hey, I remember I once had a thought about Castro! I’ll bet they’ll think I’m cool if I repeat it to them!” How this dolt won a job to begin with, let alone a Series, should be the discussion. I say that when Lenny Dykstra gets out of stir, he should start slapping that resume on some GM’s desks.

  14. Wes Parker in IA

    Let none of us cast the first stone…Guillen’s weren’t the brightest words ever spoken. But this is America, not Cuba. KO is usually a fav of mine, but much too holier than thee on this one. People need to lighten up in S Fla. Can’t we all just get along?

  15. george jost

    P.S. I think its stupid that a player was suspended for 5 games for expressing his opinion about Castro but I find baseball boring. Only in USA. Again, if there is a youtube channel, with your count down on it, I will subscribe. You only need 999,999 others and plenty of Americans love or hate you. You should respect the internet more. At the end of the day, on the internet, people can choose what they want, whether its the blogs of rambling idiots or maverickoid geniuses. I’ve got a real sport to watch; the Senators are barely in the play offs.

  16. heather12280

    Keith I heard about this on Real Time with Bill Maher and I don’t really know what to say other than what happened was pretty messed up.

  17. Sluggo

    None of this was ever about baseball, or Ozzie Guillen. It’s about thought control and the agenda of a few political-fringe wackos to create a media circus. As ESPN points out, “fewer than 200 people came to protest, and that’s *after* a politician robo-called constituents to draw a crowd” ( The whole thing was completely astroturfed, and the Marlins look absurdly ridiculous for capitulating to it. Time for them to re-name the team yet again, to the Jellyfish, or perhaps the Miami McCarthyites. Or maybe the Miami Cave Men.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s