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They Never Learn



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If Ozzie Guillen is the Joe Biden of sports, Richard Lapchick is the Larry Sabato, an indefatigable quote machine for anyone with a tape recorder. The difference is that Sabato has a basic understanding of civics.

In the aftermath of Guillen’s praise (subsequently retracted) of Fidel Castro, the Marlins suspended him for five games, whereupon the New York Times sports section went to its favorite source, who said what somebody always says when a public figure is penalized for controversial statements:

Richard Lapchick, the director of the University of Central Florida’s Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport, prepares an annual report on baseball’s gender and ethnic hiring practices. He said the reaction to the comments raised a free-speech issue.

“Part of the reason that so many Cubans left is that there was a lack of free speech,” Mr. Lapchick said. “So it is ironic, that by his expressing his beliefs, he’s been penalized.”

Let me explain it to you, Richard. In Castro’s Cuba, people who say something Castro doesn’t like are threatened, imprisoned, beaten, tortured, or sometimes killed — by the government. That’s why Cubans hate Castro — not the only reason, to be sure, but a big one. It’s something that no free society can tolerate.

And it’s a very different thing from being penalized, even fired, for harming or embarrassing the company that pays your salary — by the company. That’s a simple fact of life no matter who you work for — a magazine, a sports team, a restaurant, whoever (well, unless you’re a civil servant). And it has nothing to do with “free speech.”



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