Controversy still surrounds Guillen, Marlins

By Jerry Burnes

The Miami Marlins don’t care about the Cuban community and IBM couldn’t really care less about women’s equality.

Neither organization will say that of course, but their actions – in light of recent controversies – paint that picture pretty clearly. Social responsibility will go out the window for corporate gain.

When the Marlins handed down a five-game suspension to Ozzie Guillen for saying that he “loves” Fidel Castro, it wasn’t that owner Jeffrey Loria was that shocked and appalled by the comments himself.

The suspension was an effort to stop his pocket book from getting lighter when the team is undergoing one of largest re-branding efforts in the history of sports.

Loria spent hundreds of millions of dollars on free agents and built a new stadium. Marlins Park was built in the Little Havana neighborhood for $515 million, funded largely by taxpayer dollars. A strong number of those taxpayers were Cuban refugees who fled to Miami to escape Castro. So, naturally, he had to appease the new target market of the team’s re-branding campaign the best he could.

Firing Guillen wasn’t an option, however, because he is one of the best managers in baseball and canning him would risk damaging the on-field product. As many teams have found out, a bad on-field product can result in big hits in sales and attendance numbers.

A slap-on-the-wrist suspension was the best middle ground Loria could find.

IBM, which was the title sponsor for the Masters, took the same route as Loria. It is Augusta National tradition to offer membership to the sponsor’s CEO, but it is also an all-male club. So when Ginni Rometty, a woman, became CEO of IBM, a problem was presented for this year’s tournament.

How would IBM handle this one?

What happened was IBM remained the title sponsor and Rometty was not offered membership. The organization wasn’t willing to give up the financial gain associated with the Masters to take a stand for women’s equality.

IBM doesn’t exactly have a fan base, so what did it really have to lose by staying with Augusta National? Rather than make a bold social statement over an archaic tradition, it chose to instead follow the money because investors and clients wouldn’t exactly be jumping ship over that decision.

It is the same reason why Guillen was never hammered by the White Sox in 2006 when he called then-Chicago Sun-Times columnist Jay Mariotti a derogatory word for homosexuals. The LGBTQ community wasn’t a large enough portion of Jerry Reinsdorf’s fan base for him to worry about potential losses.

That’s the downside of business.

Money will almost always come first and the crisis management and public relations teams will be hard at work to put the organization in the best light with who it infuriated, while remaining financially aware.

Too bad more aren’t focused on being socially aware.