The comments infuriated residents of the Little Havana neighborhood in which Miami’s spanking new ballpark stands and inflamed a host of elected officials, some of whom called for Guillen’s ouster. But perhaps most significantly for the Marlins, the remarks seemed to further damage what had been a distant, if not contentious, relationship between this city and its baseball team.
The gaffe is the latest and perhaps worst misstep by an organization already facing scorn for its use of $487 million in public funds to build a $642 million baseball stadium in the historic center of the city’s Cuban population. The modern, retractable-roof park, unveiled at last Wednesday’s opening game, sits amid working-class neighborhoods whose residents have complained that game-night traffic and parking woes will ruin the area’s serenity.
“I’m putting this squarely on the Marlins,” Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos A. Gimenez said in a telephone interview. “They need to do right by the community. I think the current ownership doesn’t get it. They may be a decent baseball organization, but they’re not a good community organization. They are hypersensitive to criticism and insensitive to the community.”
The Marlins denounced Guillen’s remarks in a statement Sunday and reiterated their disapproval through team President David Samson Tuesday, shortly after announcing a five-game suspension of Guillen. But the disciplinary action seemed unlikely to placate the protestors who roared “Fuera! Fuera! [Out! Out!]” and “Boycott! Boycott!” during a rally on the stadium’s multicolored tile entry.
“The five-game suspension really doesn’t address the magnitude of his statements,” Joe A. Martinez, chairman of the Miami-Dade County Board of County Commissioners, said in a phone interview. “I guess they figured it would be enough to calm the people. . . . The people will let him know.”
Standing not far from a placard that read “Renuncia Idiota, Oswaldo Guillen, No Mas Excusas, Hipocrita, Fuera, Fuera, [Get rid of this idiot, Oswaldo Guillen, no more excuses, hypocrite, out, out]” Elio Rojas, 77, a Cuban American who arrived in Miami in 1957, said nothing short of Guillen’s dismissal would stem the fury.
“We want the administration to fire him,” Rojas said. “This stadium is paid for with our money, that’s why. . . . We are so upset. . . . We are going to stay here for every game if they keep him.”