Dan Le Batard dedicated a large portion of his radio show yesterday to discussing the death of Fidel Castro and the rift between the way Cuban-Americans perceived the dictator and the way Americans from outside of South Florida did.
Le Batard, the son of exiles, said his parents “took no joy” in Castro’s death:
That death doesn’t mean anything. He is a symbol who already took their youth, their freedom, their land, their childhood. They can’t get any of that back, and the people there that he has empowered are still in power. So celebrating the dying of our Hitler doesn’t mean very much when Nazi Germany is still in charge.
Castro’s death happened to coincide with strong criticism of San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick for wearing a t-shirt with Malcolm X and Fidel Castro on it this past August. Ahead of the 49ers’ game against the Dolphins, Cuban-born Miami Herald reporter Armando Salguero questioned Kaepernick on his choice to wear the shirt, leading Salguero to excoriate the quarterback in a column.
It just so happened that Castro finally died Friday, two days before the 49ers played the Dolphins; Kaepernick was booed upon taking the field at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens. The Dolphins won the game when Ndamukong Suh brought Kaepernick down at the two-yard line to prevent a potential game-tying touchdown, assisted on the tackle by Kiko Alonso, whose father is Cuban*. This tidy narrative all but ensured that Kaepernick’s time at the center of a Cuban-related controversy was not going away.
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Salguero spoke to Alonso and his father, Carlos, after the game, and again ripped Kaepernick in his column:
“I got interviewed earlier about what I thought of him [Kaepernick], and I said it’s about immaturity,” Carlos said. “He doesn’t know about the suffering the Cuban people have had. He doesn’t have a clue.”
Kiko chimed in …
“He’s ignorant,” he said.
“He still has no clue what a ruthless killer of the Cuban people this guy [Castro] was,” Carlos finished.
Le Batard said on his show Monday that he believes Salguero “used a hatchet where he should have been using a scalpel” when it came to Kaepernick.
Colin Kaepernick is not unlike much of America in not understanding what is happening in Cuba. What inflicts Miami Cubans more than anything right now is loneliness, feeling not understood as the prime minister of Canada and a bunch of other people are sitting here on the eulogy of Fidel Castro, and they’re feeling the need to celebrate his life and his passing just because he died.
Le Batard was asked by his co-host Jon “Stugotz” Weiner if he believes that “Colin Kaepernick should be held to a higher standard,” as he’s put himself out there in protest of police mistreatment in America. (In his initial conversation with Salguero, Kaepernick equated the breaking up of families using mass incarceration to the breaking up of families who fled and continue to flee Cuba, saying he objected to both.)
“I’m not gonna call that guy names,” Le Batard said. “He’s got his fight and he’s not informed on all things. He can be wrong, but he’s not any more or less wrong than what the prime minister of Canada was just saying. Hell, Obama wasn’t harsh enough for a murderous killer, man.” He then praised Donald Trump’s statement on Castro.
Later in the show, Le Batard had Kiko Alonso on, and asked him a few questions about his family and his feelings on facing Kaepernick just after Castro’s death. Alonso said what he has said elsewhere: He hadn’t paid much attention to the controversy, but felt Kaepernick was “ignorant,” so he went into the game with “a little bad blood.”
Alonso happens to be the favorite player of Le Batard’s father, Papi, so they surprised Papi by putting Alonso on the line.
Papi explodes with pure joy, telling Alonso in Spanish that he believes rice and beans are why he’s thriving with the Dolphins, then asking about his family. “First Latino player since 1972 that is playing for the Dolphins. I’m rooting for you Kiko, I want to see you in the Super Bowl.”
After the segment, Le Batard called it “the single most Hispanic moment in the history of ESPN Radio.”