April 24, 2014

Ozzie Guillen, Apologies and Freedom of Speech

Freedom of speech just means that the government can’t enact a law infringing on citizens’ rights, but an employer is well within his/her rights to do what they want with an employee that represents them. This is a true statement and I agree with it whole-heartedly. If this is where the conversation regarding freedom of speech begins and ends for you, then you should probably stop reading further. For me, it goes beyond that. Freedom of speech is covered in the first amendment to the Constitution, but it is also a cultural ideal with a life beyond the simple confines of law and government. If you want to talk technicalities as if this is some kind of contractual law case, then we’ve exhausted it already.

This isn’t exactly in our wheelhouse because Ozzie Guillen is now managing the Miami Marlins. Still, Ozzie feels kind of like a related story because he was so involved in the American League Central for so long as the Indians battled his White Sox teams year in and year out. This might also miss the WFNY wheelhouse because it is also twinged in politics and we kind of avoid divisive stuff like that because comments almost always devolve into a left vs. right, black vs. white, up vs. down kind of debate where polar opposites claim that the other side is wrong without ever looking for any kind of common ground. That’s O.K. when we’re talking about Eric Mangini, for example, but not so much on a sports site when lightly talking about politics. We should be safe on this issue though because in the end, I don’t want to discuss what Ozzie Guillen said as much as I’d like to discuss the culture surrounding what he said. All disclaimers finished I’ll get to the point.

We’re talking about a platform for speech. We’re talking about a culture in sports where we presumably want athletes and people around sports to entertain us on the field and also when in front of a microphone. Sometimes that is going to lead to mistakes like what Ozzie Guillen made the other day. It is fair to call it a mistake because Guillen apologized and attempted to clarify what he said today while being handed a five game suspension from the Marlins. The suspension is my biggest problem in all this. I think the suspension is more harmful than it is helpful.

A suspension renders an apology and explanation meaningless. In the end, Ozzie Guillen offended some people, but a clarification and an apology should be good enough if he is sincere. Instead the Marlins had to tack on a pretty meaningless five game suspension as some kind of token for the presumably offended people. For me, that’s where it goes too far. That’s where the situation jumps from one of misunderstanding and offense and jumps straight to an attack on the platform for speech. Any attack on the platform itself is overly chilling to free speech as a cultural ideal and I can’t support that. It says to me that nobody believes or trusts the apology anyway. So why bother apologizing?

If what he said is so bad and irreparable then he should be fired. I don’t personally think he should be fired, but if the Marlins truly feel an apology and explanation isn’t good enough then they should stand up with real guts and fire him. If they don’t want to fire him, then his apology should suffice. This middle of the road stuff is more harmful as it doesn’t seek to address issues, but merely placate customers by putting a P.R. spin on things. If the issue is truly of importance then it shouldn’t be for sale or subject to superior marketing.

At the point where we devolve into a culture where apologies are rendered meaningless and our thirst for “justice” is only satiated with attacks on speech platforms – even by private employers – I think we’ve lost something. We’ve lost a level of toughness where words not only hurt us but demand overwhelming punishment even beyond regret, remorse and explanation. That, to me, is even sadder and more offensive than anything that anyone could say.

To attack platforms just forces honesty into the shadows. Recently deceased comedian Patrice O’Neal used to say frequently that as a black man he’d never met a racist before. What he meant by that is that he knows racists exist, but that they just live in the shadows and are dishonest with themselves and the people around them. That might seem like a good thing or progress compared to openly racist days previous, but anyone who is keeping something quiet isn’t dealing with it either. Something that wouldn’t survive in the sunlight is gaining extra life in the shadows. Kind of like if you are seeking the help of a psychiatrist but you lie to them about what is really going on in your life. You can’t work on the things that you won’t acknowledge or be honest with yourself about.

This is why freedom of speech is important as a cultural ideal beyond just governments making laws. Our growth as a culture is sped up whenever we have a chance to deal with something. We have chances to deal with things when people feel free to speak their minds. Maybe this is a little too high and mighty for what happened with Ozzie Guillen, or even guys like Don Imus, Bill Maher or Rush Limbaugh. As always with cultural ideals – at least to me – it is bigger than just the anecdotes.

  • porckchopexpress

    I would say we are Valencia oranges and Clementine oranges.  The problem is we are using a stupid comment by a stupid person as the test case, which unfortunately happens quite alot in law.  Once again, if saying “I like Castro” can get you fired then so can “I like Obama”.  Now if the employee makes his “I like Obama” statement on company time and in a way that harms business because of the timing of the statement then that person should suffer consequences.
    If the person attends rallies, works on campaigns etc., or simply gets quoted in a magazine - on their own time- saying “Yeah I like Obama”, and that person is fired I have serious issue that and I hope a court would give damages to the worker.  Firing someone for things they do on their own time leads to the coercion of that persons speech.  This very thing happened for decades during the Industrial Revolution when workers were marched down to voting booths and forced to choose between their jobs or voting for candidates whose policies supported the employers over the employees.  I have deceased relatives from central PA who have recounted these types of stories.  This was one of the major causes of the rise of unions – who in turn began doing exactly the same thing to their members. 
    You boil this down to the kid wanting freedom and being offered that freedom.  I boil it down to buinesses enjoying the prosperity that a free market economy and by extension a free market place of ideas, offers but not wanting to accept the responsibility that sometimes this freedom means you have to accept hiring people with opinions different than yours.  You say the kid should move out.  I say the unhappy buisness should move to Cuba and see how profitable running a company under a dictatorship is.

    (see this is where the conversation should be, not video blurbs of Ozzie Guillen crocodile tears, and screaming Cubans)

  • Garry_Owen

    Whoa, whoa, whoa!  Why’s a guy gotta read through a whole day-old post to see his good (fake) name being abused??   That stings, Mr. C.  That stings.   

  • Harv 21

    Hey, Pork, you know what this was, right? Craig’s way of baiting us into taking a recess from wfny’s next mock draft link. Oh well, looks like recess is over.

  • MrCleaveland

    Sorry, but it had to be done.

    But I know that anyone who sports the crossed sabers will only grow stronger from this.

  • MrCleaveland

     Ha ha, you nailed it!

  • Garry_Owen

    Didn’t work for Custer. 

  • porckchopexpress

    That guy is sneaky.  Well now that I’m on to him I’m going to release my all new Mock draft 8.3940 “Special Muppet Addition”.  Find out how I outline a plan for the Browns to snag both Waldorf and Statler.  I’ll tell you why Sam the Eagle’s stock is soaring.  Why Beaker is the ultimate sleeper pick and whether or not Gonzo’s alleged drug issues make him too risky in the early rounds.

  • Bzerbel1

    POSTED APRIL 11, 2012

    ONCE AGAIN, BASEBALL IS WRONG.

    I don’t usually get into the sports end of the news. I consider these games to be mere entertainment, something of which is the primary culprit in diverting the public from real events. Sports and entertainment are also convenient escapes for those who are in the forefront of the dumbing down of America. So much for that.

    Now on to Ozzie Gullien and major league baseball’s punishment for his giving an opinion with which many disagree. This time it was about some vague praise directed at Fidel Castro and his longevity in office. In south Florida there is a large Cuban community of which most are anti Castro, and why is that? One of the main reasons is Castro is an authoritarian despot. Among the things Castro punishes is speech with which he disagrees. That makes him bad. Punishing Guillen because he said something with which people disagree is the same thing. That is why the founders of our nation insisted that the very first article in the Constitution protect speech —all speech— no matter how stupid —no matter how disagreeable. Once you can punish someone for speech, you can punish anyone for speech.

    Some have pointed out that since major league baseball is a private enterprise, freedom of speech doesn’t apply, but major league baseball doesn’t qualify as a standard private business. Major league baseball enjoys an exception under anti trust laws changing their status. Indeed, the Miami Marlins, of whom Guillen is the manager, now occupy a stadium paid for by public money. How many “private” businesses do you know that have these benefits? Marge Schott, former owner of the Cincinnati Reds, was driven out of baseball for statements about Hitler. John Rocker, former major league relief pitcher, was hounded and punished, for stating his mild opinion on the minority population of New York.

    No, Castro is not the problem in Amerika today. Our ever increasing deterioration of Constitutional rights was not caused by Mao, or Stalin or Castro. It was and is, being caused by the politically correct facists now controlling all major sports, major corporations, media and all levels of government. If you really hate Castro, you should really hate this.

    Bruce                        New World Order News

  • porckchopexpress

    To be fair lots and lots of businesses have sweetheart deals with cities/states etc.  In Akron I know that GOJO negotiated a complete property tax exemption so long as “x” (don’t know the number for sure) workers lived in the city limits.  Two of the three makers of Americans cars exist because of taxpayer deals, as do almost every major financial institution that needed bailed out a few years ago.
    Here is my real problem its the use of the term “politically correct” as a pejorative meaning people in specific groups are being too sensitive. 
     I am heavily invested in special education and the lives of persons with disabilities both mental and phsycial.  Frequently asking people not to use the term retarded to insult someone’s intelligence is met with derision and I am told to not be so “PC”.  I would argue that people using telling other people to not be PC are attempting to excuse their own ignorance by pretending it is the person being insulted’s fault for being insulted.
    I don’t think anyone is saying you can’t have an intelligent discussion of the pros and cons of Castro or freemarket economics vs. communism, or even what free speech means.  I genuinely feel that this comment section shows a very good civil discourse on many facets of the subject.  What this section doesn’t have is someone shooting their mouth off with uninformed, small minded opinions and then getting mad when they are dressed down for those opinions (not saying you).  Guillen’s comment and peoples defense of it falls into this latter category.
    It was a stupid mindless comment made by a man who very rarely thinks before he speaks.  Had he offerred an intelligent well thought out opinion of Castro, stregnths, and qualified it by acknowleding the tremedous harm he has caused, then he would have reason for outrage.
    Lastly this idea that our Constitutional rights are deteriorating is patently false.  In the 1790′s the Sedition acts were a far greater threat to free speech.  As was the precendent Andrew Jackson attempted to set by claiming the Supreme Court must be in charge of enforcing its own decisions.  Or any number of Jim Crow era Dred Scot verdicts that limited speech for certain persons.  Almost the entire 20th century saw government attempts to ferret out and suppress anyone it deemed dangerous.  There is a constant ebb and flow to speech and it takes a vigilant public to defend it, primarily through debate.  The idea that free speech is under attack today in a way that it wasn’t in the past is absolutely incorrect. 

  • porckchopexpress

    I would also address the revisionist history in this post.  Marge Schott was not driven out of baseball because of her comments about Hitler.  While it is true that her constant comments about blacks, jews, and homosexuals, caused embarrassment and even suspensions from baseball, she was the head of a failing ownership group that planned to boot her the same as any failing company boots its CEO if they are not making money. 
    The fact that this author uses the term “mild” to lessen Rockers comments shows that the author cares more about his message rather than being accurate.  Among many things said, and a well documented history of being a complete a-hole aside from his opinions, Rocker called a teammate a fat monkey.  I know that if I called a black co-worker a fat monkey it would not be considered a “mild’ comment and I’m betting the same is true for Mr. Bruce.
    Just wanted to clear those two misconceptions up.

  • Ducksaucegeoff