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Tuesday, April 10, 2012
Ozzie Guillen and freedom of speech

I am quoted in a story on CNN about the five-game suspension that the Miami Marlins handed down to manager Ozzie Guillen for his recent comments about Fidel Castro.

Obviously, this is not a First Amendment problem, since no government entity is sanctioning or censoring Guillen. In fact, this is sort of what the First Amendment envisions: Guillen said something and a whole bunch of people are engaging in counter-speech, criticizing him, calling for a boycott, etc. It was the last one that caused the Marlins to engage in their own counter-speech by suspending him, thus expressing their displeasure with his comments. It perhaps would be nice if a large institution such as the Marlins would, in some sense, support free speech values by not sanctioning Guillen for what is clearly protected expression and only tangentially related to his job. But, again, the team has its own interests to protect and its own expressive rights that it may exercise.

Honestly, though, this all seems silly. The Marlins knew Guillen was a loose cannon when they hired him, so it is hard to take their outrage over his comments seriously. The outrage over his comments generally seems unwarranted; Guillen didn't express support or love for Castro, but made the (true) point that folks have been trying to kill Castro for going on 55 years and he's still holding on. But having lived in Miami for almost a decade, I understand and am not surprised by the reaction. Saying anything not negative about Castro is a bit like saying anything not negative about Hitler; I don't buy the equivalence, but that is a matter of perspective.


I don't disagree with anything you said--most especially the "it's not a direct First Amendment issue" and the Miami comment--but that leaves me wondering about the Marlins vetting process.

After all, the thing that "suddenly" has "everyone" up in arms is rather precisely the same thing Guillen said publicly four years ago.

It's one thing to suspend someone for something that comes totally out of left field (as it were). When they say again what they have said before, you look even stupider when you say "We never expected that" and take a punitive action.

Making Jeffrey Loria and Bud Selig look even stupider takes effort, even for them, but they have now managed to pass the Jets's "of course we have contract experts, what do you mean we owe the whole $5MM" for Missing the Obvious.

Blogger Ken Houghton -- 4/10/2012 6:28 PM  

How about exercising your First Amendment right and tell us about Isaiah Thomas' departure. Surely, you have to follow up on that one!

Anonymous Anonymous -- 4/11/2012 5:28 PM  

This story reflects what I think is a growing trend of coach as politician/celebrity. We no longer just expect coaches to provide commentary on strategy and the respective team, these people are personalities and once in front of a microphone, anything they say is fair game for the media to jump on. Any team that thinks its coach(es), or players, won't or can't make the same mistake Guillen did is living in a dream world. I agree with Ken, this brings up questions about the vetting process. But, unless they have a full-time spokesperson, Guillen is essentially a powder keg.

Blogger Kellen W. Bradley -- 4/13/2012 1:51 PM  

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