"I love Fidel Castro."
Those were the words that earned Ozzie Guillen a five-game suspension from his new job as manager of the Miami Marlins.
The comments in an interview with Time magazine, resulted in a firestorm of criticism for Guillen, whose team plays in a new stadium in Miami's Little Havana, home to hundreds of thousands of Cuban Americans who fled Castro's revolution from 1959.
"I was thinking in Spanish and said it wrong in English," Guillen said after apologizing at a news conference in Miami on Tuesday. Guillen said he meant to say he was surprised that Fidel Castro had stayed in power so long, considering what he'd done.
Guillen has put his foot in his mouth many times before. "He's always had a quick mouth," says Andy Gomez, assistant provost of the University of Miami, "to say what's in his head, whether it's in Spanish or English". Gomez is also a Marlins' season-ticket holder.
Gomez said Guillen's comments showed a ridiculous level of ignorance and insensitivity.
But Gomez praised the Marlins' management for their prompt action, suspending Guillen.
"I think that's quite sufficient. I don't think it calls for a firing at this time at all."
Ozzie Guillen in 2008 as manager of the White Sox (Photo: Wiki Commons)
An archive image of Fidel Castro from 2003. (Photo: Wiki Commons)