Ozzie Guillen has been suspended by the Miami Marlins for five games for comments made about Cuban dictator Fidel Castro, the team announced Tuesday.
The suspension was handed down shortly before Guillen apologized for the comments at a press conference at Marlins Park.
"The Marlins acknowledge the seriousness of the comments attributed to Guillen," the team said in a brief statement. "The pain and suffering caused by Fidel Castro cannot be minimized especially in a community filled with victims of the dictatorship."
Guillen started his press conference with a statement in Spanish, saying he feels embarrassed and sad for the comments.
"Good morning. Well, I'm here because of me. I have hurt a country. I have hurt a community without wanting to, but I did it, not only the Cuban people here or the people in their country, but everyone in Latin America," he said in Spanish. "I'm here to apologize with my heart in my hand, to ask for forgiveness from those I have hurt directly or indirectly.
An interview published on Time Magazine's website this week quoted Guillen as saying, "I respect Fidel Castro. You know why? A lot of people have wanted to kill Fidel Castro for the last 60 years, but that mother****** is still here."
Guillen denied he loves Castro and said his comments were misinterpreted.
"It was misinterpreted...I said I cannot believe someone who hurt so many people over the years is still alive," Guillen said. "This is the biggest mistake in my life."
Guillen said he understood the suspension and why the team did it.
"I cannot say it's unfair or fair, to me it's a very sad situation," Guillen said.
I think it's very important for me to be with the club. but the decision was made and I respect the decision.
"I'm not complaining...right now I'm not in a position to complain."
He added that he felt he let his team down.
"I'm very disappointed and very sad, I let those guys down, I let the ball club down," Guillen said. "That's the reason they hired me, to manage the ball club not talk about politics."
Looking at the assembled media members, Guillen said "I thought the next time I'd see this room with this many people, there'd be a World Series trophy next to me."
Dozens of protesters gathered outside the stadium Tuesday, holding signs calling Guillen a "jerk" and telling him to "go back to Venezuela." One protester shouted "If you love Castro, you'll love Cuba," in Spanish.
Come called Guillen a communist and a dictator. "Ozzie, we declare you persona non grata in Miami," one sign read.
"They have all the right because I hurt a lot of people and I'm aware of that," Guillen said of the public outcry.
Guillen said he realized his comments hurt many in Miami's Cuban community.
"I expect to be here for a long time, I live in Miami, my family's in Miami," Guillen said. "I will help the Cuban community, Latino community like I always do."
"I live here and I want to walk in the street and feel not this bad, the way I feel right now," he said.
Guillen apologized during the Marlins road trip in Cincinnati over the weekend, but that was not enough for one Cuban exile group that vowed to protest and boycott the Marlins until Guillen is no longer the team's manager.
Before Monday's game against the Phillies, a 6-2 win, Guillen said he had thought about it and decided he wanted to come to Miami and apologize in person during a break in the Marlin's three-game series against the Phillies.
"I feel sad and in a couple days I you know, stuck in my stomach, not because what I did, it just because I know I hurt a lot of people and I want to make it clear, especially for me," Guillen said. "I want to get the thing over with and I told the Marlins I want to fly as soon as I can and tomorrow is the day off, I don't do nothing in Philadelphia, I'd rather be in Miami, clear everything up."
The organization issued a statement shortly after Guillen's comments were made public, saying "there is nothing to respect about Fidel Castro."
"He is a brutal dictator who has caused unthinkable pain for more than 50 years," the team statement read. "We live in a community filled with victims of this dictatorship, and the people in Cuba continue to suffer today."
On Monday, local politicians, including Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez, condemned Guillen's statement.
"For too long, the Marlins organization has been the source of controversies in our community and I now challenge them to take decisive steps to bring this community back together," Gimenez said.
Miami-Dade County Commission Chairman Joe A. Martinez sent a letter to Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria, calling the statements a "slap in the face of those who have fought oppression in this community and everywhere in the world."
He also urged Loria to call for Guillen's resignation.