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April 11, 2021

What happens to business when you side with Fidel Castro

In sports, Ozzie Guillen is as colourful as personalities get, having shown no ability to censor himself in his 30-odd years in baseball.

As a manager with the Chicago White Sox from 2004-2011, Guillen was routinely suspended for offside remarks and ill-timed cursing, though he was always treated with kid gloves. Oh, there goes Ozzie again – what did he say now?

But a move this offseason to become skipper of the Miami Marlins hasn’t begun so well for the outspoken Guillen, who let slip a big no-no in a recent magazine interview, confessing his admiration for longtime Cuban dictator Fidel Castro.

The manager has already been suspended five games for his remarks, yet the damage stretches long past the diamond. It's threatening to derail the finances of the entire Marlins operation.

Indeed, there could be few P.R. nightmares more damning right now for the Marlins, who moved to a new stadium this year right in the heart of Miami’s Little Havana.

*Bing: What is the most expensive stadium in baseball?

In a place of scathing anti-Castro sentiment, then, Guillen’s comments to TIME magazine, who recently recorded the manager professing his “love” and respect” for the Cuban tyrant, could be a major disruption to the Marlins’ revenue streams.

Consider: the Marlins were able to swindle $479 million in taxpayer-funded bonds to finance their new stadium, which was intentionally built in Miami’s largest Cuban-American neighbourhood.

It was a conscious move, along with signing the Venezuelan Guillen to manage the team, to connect with Miami’s passionate Latin-American fan base, which – along with expectant season ticket buyers and new uniforms to give a merchandise boost – was to provide a foolproof revenue stream for years to come.

Guillen’s Castro comments, though, have threatened that right out of the gate. Though he has apologized for his remarks (“I feel like I betrayed my Latin community,” he later conceded), public boycotts have begun from angry Latin-American Marlins fans, who have already protested outside the stadium.

“It’s going to be difficult,” Arturo Marcano, a sports management expert with an interest in Latin American baseball, told the Star. “The suspension is the first step, based on protecting the economic interests of the team … It’s not just the people who go to the games. The whole economy around the stadium is run by Cuban-Americans.”

By Jason Buckland, MSN Money



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Gordon PowersGordon Powers

A long-time fund company executive, Gordon Powers now heads up the Affinity Group, a financial services consulting firm. Gordon was a personal finance columnist for the Globe & Mail for many years, has taught retirement planning...

Jason BucklandJason Buckland

The modern-day MC Hammer of money, Jason can often be seen spending cash that isn’t his with the efficiency of a Wilt Chamberlain first date. After cutting his teeth as a reporter for the Toronto Sun, he joined the MSN Money team with...