SBD/April 16, 2012/Franchises

Protesters Largely Absent At First Games At Marlins Park Since Guillen's Comments

Impact of Guillen's apology will be measured when he returns from suspension tomorrow
There were “no angry signs and no organized show of protest” when the Marlins hosted the Astros Friday night, their first game at Marlins Park since manager Ozzie Guillen’s comments on Fidel Castro led to a five-game suspension, according to Dave George of the PALM BEACH POST. When an image of Guillen was “flashed briefly on the jumbo video screen during a pre-game presentation of Miami's starting lineup, there was no reaction whatsoever from a gathering crowd of 30,169.” Guillen returns from his suspension tomorrow night and “only then will the impact of his apology … be fully measured” (PALM BEACH POST, 4/14). In Miami, Armando Salguero noted the “feared protesters never showed” Friday, but there were “wide swaths of empty seats at Marlins Park.” At least 11 sections in the ballpark "were more than 75 percent unoccupied.” The Marlins “would argue there’s no issue because they announced a paid attendance of 30,169 in the park that holds 36,442 seated customers.” But Salguero wrote the empty seats “raise questions, especially in light of suggestions a protest is still possible Tuesday when Guillen returns from his five-game suspension and other whispers that a boycott is already under way.” Perhaps the crowd was “reined in by the other events in town,” as the NHL Panthers hosted the Devils in a playoff game and the Bobcats-Heat game was on the same night. Salguero: “Nobody knows why the crowd was good by Marlins standards, but nowhere close to Opening Night good” (MIAMI HERALD, 4/14).

MARLINS MAKE NECESSARY MOVE: Boston Globe columnist Bob Ryan said of Guillen's comments, “We’re talking about a speech infraction here that the Constitution supposedly covers, but we do understand why the team had to react.” Ryan noted the Marlins have "never tapped into that fan base in terms of being paying customers." Ryan: "They were hoping by building a new ballpark in Little Havana, bringing in a Latino face such as Ozzie and importing some other players they would succeed. The fact is now finally he’s got their attention, and it’s negative.” ESPN’s Howard Bryant said the “real conversation here is whether or not the Miami Marlins have the stamina to stand by their manager and whether or not they’re going to ride this out along business lines.” Bryant: “What Ozzie Guillen’s got to do is win.” N.Y. Times’ Judy Battista said, “I can’t imagine a worse thing he could have said to that customer base than what he said about Fidel Castro.” If there are "significant protests and people really boycott the stadium, don’t show up, then this continues.” Battista: “In the week since he apologized, things seemed to have calmed down” (“The Sports Reporters,” ESPN, 4/15).

MERCHANDISE MANIA: Marlins Senior VP/Marketing & Event Booking Sean Flynn said that sales of Marlins shirts, jerseys and hats at the first three games in the new ballpark “eclipsed total sales last season.” MLB Senior VP/Licensing Howard Smith said that Sports Authority reported that sales of Marlins gear nationwide has “outsold all other team merchandise this quarter, including that of teams from other sports.” Smith said that Marlins merchandise historically has “fallen into the lower half of sales when ranked against that of other major-league teams.” He added that since December, Marlins merchandise sales “have skyrocketed, and the team is now one of MLB's top sellers.” Smith: "This is one of the hottest re-image projects I've ever worked on" (SUN-SENTINEL.com, 4/14).
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