When athletes talk politics

Although some sports stars got credit recently for speaking out about the killing of Trayvon Martin, it’s still good business for the athlete to stick to athletics and cliches about athletics.

Two sports “stars” bear witness to it.

First, Miami Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen — not much of a shrinking violet before a microphone — has been suspended by Major League Baseball his team for speaking out — apparently favorably — about Fidel Castro. That’s not something you do in Florida.

He told Time Magazine, “I love Castro.” It didn’t help that Time buried the story behind an online paywall, leaving only the incendiary sentence available for the audience.

“It’s like going to New York’s Jewish district and saying, ‘Hitler wasn’t so bad. He managed to stay in power for a few years,’ ” veteran Spanish-language baseball announcer Amaury Pi-Gonzalez, who fled Cuba at age 17 and lived in Miami for five years.

Today, Guillen paid the price:

Boston Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas, on the other hand, didn’t take the bait when it was offered today.

A few months ago, Thomas refused to go to the White House for a ceremony honoring the Stanley Cup champions, because he disagrees with the role and size of government.

At a media gaggle about the team’s upcoming playoff series, Thomas didn’t miss a beat when a reporter tried to stir up trouble:

Tim Thomas is no fool.

  • Mark Gisleson

    When is the last time any professional athlete or manager was suspended for making political remarks, especially political remarks not directed at the government of the United States?

    I think I’m giving up on baseball. Comparing Castro to Hitler is absurd and does great violence to history. Hitler did not train doctors to serve in Third World countries. Hitler fought wars of subjugation whereas Castro aided liberation fronts, some of which were inarguably less harmful than the regimes they opposed (not unlike the French aiding our revolutionary forefathers).

    Castro ran some nasty prisons, but not a whiff of death camp clings to his record which, if compared to George W. Bush’s, wouldn’t look all that bad. (Castro never invaded another country, and never ran secret torture bases around the globe.)

    Castro is no George Washington, but he’s certainly no worse than any of several dozen dictators who hold power thanks to our government’s support. Furthermore, it appears that MLB’s interpretation of their employee’s First Amendment rights would be right at home in Cuba.

  • Bob Collins

    Very good points. Also noted the irony of the anti-Ozzie faction calling for his head “in the name of freedom loving people.”

    I do, recall, however a bit of a howl in the Twin Cities after Prop 8. Many people wanted some sort of action taken against Mark Madsen (timberwolves) because the Mormon Church supported Proposition 8 and he is a Mormon (and might’ve contributed to the campaign).

    The intersection of sports and politics is never going to be pretty.

  • David Wilford

    And to think that the Marlin’s mascot is named “Billy the Marlin” in homage to Billy Martin. Yeah, THAT Billy Martin. Hey, maybe the mascot could punch Guillen when he walks back on the field after his suspension is over.

    (Which reminds me of my favorite baseball line of all time: “One’s a born liar, the other’s convicted”. And that’s how legends are made… ;^)

  • doug sandels

    Minor clarification, but Ozzie was suspended by the Marlins themselves, not the MLB overlords.

    You can bet Ozzie would have been suspended by MLB if he had commented on another despot who rose to power and then somehow held on for years – Bud Selig.

  • Bob Moffitt

    “Tim Thomas is no fool.”

    Well, that’s a matter of opinion. I say if the President of the United States gives you the honor of a White House visit to recognize your team’s accomplishments, you smile, accept and keep your mouth shut. It doesn’t matter if you voted for the guy, or agree with his politics. You do it for the team, and for the fans that support you.

    If Thomas wants to express his opinion on the size and scope of government, he can write a letter to the editor, or run for office.

  • Bob Collins

    The “no fool” comment refers, of course, to how he handles the media and not how he refers to handle his own life’s decisions, which I no longer care about.