Friday, April 13, 2012

Patriotic Correctness Redux

I am not a fan of Ozzie Guillen. Nor of Fidel Castro or Hugo Chavez, despite what some of my more conservative friends may think. And unlike my attitude towards Rick Pitino, I don't see those inclinations changing anytime soon.

Nevertheless, I am perplexed by tone of the criticism by Major League Baseball and head shill Bud Selig (you can add him to that list in the first paragraph as far as I'm concerned too) to a statement that Guillen recently made regarding Castro that led to a five game suspension from his new job as manager of the Miami (formerly Florida) Marlins.

In an interview with Time Magazine, Guillen, who has a notoriously large mouth which one foot or the other often seems to occupy, allegedly made comments that supported Castro. While initially saying that he "love(s) Fidel Castro" even Guillen immediately saw the danger in that comment and amended it somewhat.  "I respect Fidel Castro," Guillen said. "You know why? A lot of people have wanted to kill Fidel Castro for he last 60 years, but that mother____ is still here."

Let me be clear: while I am not privy to Guillen's contract with the Marlins, I assume that the team is perfectly within its rights to suspend him for the comments he made as not in the best interest of the team. In fact, given Guillen's past history of stupid utterances reflecting his homophobia and, indeed, expressing his admiration for Castro, I would be astonished if Guillen's contract did not have a clause allowing him to be disciplined or terminated for comments deemed detrimental to the club.

While Guillen has (unconvincingly) tried to explain his comments by saying that he was thinking in Spanish and talking in English during the interview (so, Spanish for the word "love" really means "hate"?), I think we're missing something a little more fundamental here. 

It's clear that Selig didn't see Guillen's punishment as sufficient to quell the uproar in Miami over his comments. So, instead, he went out of his way to proclaim Guillen's opinions as, essentially, un-American in a transparent attempt to pander to the city's Cuban-American community (and to avoid losing their support at the turnstiles, on which Selig is banking to turn around the moribund franchise and fill its brand-new $515 million ballpark).

In his statement, Selig intoned, in part: "As I have often said, baseball is a social institution with important social responsibilities. All of our 30 Clubs play significant roles within their local communities, and I expect those who represent Major League Baseball to act with the kind of respect and sensitivity that the game's many cultures deserve."

So, basically, whatever your largest potential audience is in any location, pander to them. Only offer opinions with which they agree. And that bit about social responsibilities? Well, as long as the First Amendment isn't included, we're all for them.

Selig's hypocrisy is compounded, of course, by the fact that he took no action, and made no proclamation, about Guillen's comments regarding Castro in 2008. And most significantly, by his own appearance in Havana, seated beside Fidel himself, in 1998 at an Orioles-Cuban All-Star team exhibition.

Orioles owner Peter Angelos, Fidel Castro, and Bud Selig.
I know what you're thinking. It's not Photoshopped.

And so, we have the 2012 Selig, trying to sell tickets in Miami to the Cuban-American community by denouncing Guillen as not meeting MLB's "important social responsibilities" while we gaze at the 1998 version of Selig sitting next to the man Guillen is criticized for admiring. Why? 

Money. It was okay for Bud to sit next to Fidel in 1998 because, well, because Bud thought it the best way for baseball to make a few bucks at the time. And, now, it's okay for Bud to eviscerate Guillen for admiring the man he once sat next to because, well, because Bud thinks that's the best way for baseball to make a few bucks.

At least Joesph McCarthy had an ideological basis for his witch hunt. Trampling an entire nation's First Amendment rights in the name of freedom, while horrifying and divisive, had a patina of patriotism. Selig's trampling of an individual's rights has no such gloss. It's just business as usual for Bud, according to what he believes is best for his business. And if that pesky Constitution gets in the way? Well, just place yourself on the side of "social responsibility" and everything will be fine.

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