Blue Jays shortstop suspended after homophobic slur on eye black
Blue Jays shortstop Yunel Escobar is shown in a game Friday night.
September 18th, 2012
11:15 AM ET

Blue Jays shortstop suspended after homophobic slur on eye black

Toronto Blue Jays shortstop Yunel Escobar has been suspended for three games after a photo emerged from Saturday's game showing him with a Spanish homophobic slur in his eye black, the substance ballplayers put below their eyes to reduce the sun's glare.

Escobar acknowledged being the author of the message, but was reticent about the underlying meaning of the words.

"It was not something I intended to be offensive," Escobar said through a translator. "It's something I just put on the sticker on my face."

The team said it met with Escobar, Major League Baseball officials and the MLB Players Association and decided the shortstop will be suspended without pay. The salary he forfeits will be donated to the groups You Can Play and the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD.)

"The Blue Jays want to reaffirm that discrimination of any kind will not be tolerated," the team said in a statement announcing the suspension.

Escobar said his actions were not intentional or directed at anyone in particular and he wanted to apologize to anyone he offended.

"I don’t have anything against homosexuals," Escobar said. "I have friends who are gay. I'd like to ask for the apology of all those who have been offended by this."

Maria Cristina Cuervo, a Spanish professor at the University of Toronto, told Toronto Star columnist Cathal Kelly on Tuesday that the word "is derogatory, but it’s not necessarily homophobic," and in some Spanish-speaking countries such as Argentina, it is more of a teasing insult.

Escobar did not say specifically what he thought the words on his eye black meant, but added the phrase was something that's "been said amongst Latinos."

"It's not something meant to be offensive," he said. "For us, it didn't have the significance to the way it's being interpreted right now. It's a word used often with teens."

When pressed further by reporters, Escobar said that the words he wrote have different meanings depending on how you say it and who you say it to. Reporters then asked what he specifically meant.

"I didn't mean to say anything with it," he said.

Escobar added he has several gay friends, including the person who decorates his house and who cuts his hair. He said those people told him they were not as offended as the larger community.

"There's a different understanding in the Latin community" about the word, he said.

Though Escobar displayed the words on his eye black during Saturday's game in Toronto against the Boston Red Sox, the incident did not gain attention until Monday when a photo of Escobar was posted on Flickr by a Blue Jays fan, identified by the Toronto Star as James Greenhalgh, a season-ticket holder who sits behind the Blue Jays dugout in Rogers Centre.

In addition to the suspension for three games and handing over his salary for that span, Escobar will also take part in an outreach initiative to help educate society about sensitivity and tolerance to others based on their sexual orientation.

Manager John Farrell said he does not think there is a problem in Major League Baseball with homophobia. Farrell also said that nobody questioned any writing on Escobar's eye black because he has done it before.

"Because it's frequently done, nobody paid attention to it," Farrell said.

Escobar said he had no problem with the suspension that was handed down.

"I feel bad," he said. "I'm embarrassed."

MLB commissioner Selig said in a press release he supported the Blue Jays' decision to suspend Escobar.

"I consistently say that Baseball is a social institution with important social responsibilities and that I expect those who represent Major League Baseball to act with the kind of respect and sensitivity that the game’s diverse fan base deserves," Selig said in a statement. "Mr. Escobar has admitted that his actions were a mistake and I am hopeful he can use this unfortunate situation as an opportunity to educate himself and others that intolerance has no place in our game or society."

The league added a non-discrimination based on sexual orientation clause to the collective bargaining agreement it signed with the players' union in November.

Last year, Atlanta Braves pitching coach Roger McDowell was suspended for two weeks without pay after he was accused of making vulgar, homophobic and threatening comments at a Giants-Braves game on April 23 in San Francisco. McDowell also was fined and told to go through sensitivity training.

"Major League Baseball is a social institution that brings people together and welcomes all individuals of different races, religions, genders, national origins and sexual orientations into its ballparks. Conduct by people associated with MLB that shows insensitivity to others simply cannot and will not be tolerated," Commissioner Bud Selig said in a statement after the McDowell incident.

Escobar, 29, is from Havana, Cuba. He is a veteran of seven major league seasons, both with the Blue Jays and Atlanta Braves.

He did not play in Sunday's game in Toronto after suffering "flu-like symptoms," according to the Star report. The Blue Jays did not have a game on Monday.

The Blue Jays return to Toronto for a home game on September 27.

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Filed under: Baseball • Canada • Sports
soundoff (212 Responses)
  1. DeeDee

    He should be banned from baseball for life. The penalty for departing from politically correct norms must be swift and just. Freedom of speech is an antiquated notion and must be adapted to fit these modern times we live in. This is far worse than New Orleans bounty for injury or Michael Vicks killing dogs. Remember that other Atlanta pitcher John Rocker, 2001, $20,000 and two month suspension for his horrible horrible slurs? Expressing your opinion is far worse than physically harming other beings.

    September 18, 2012 at 11:27 am | Report abuse |
    • SofaKingWeToddEd

      you get fined because you're an employee basically. you can't fine someone for using slurs if you don't pay them in the first place. when you're in baseball and you're on TV, there's going to be a lot of problems if you offend people. let's put it this way, it's a business and it's a lot of money gone if you offend the general public. this isn't about free speech. it's about the company and the company's image.

      September 18, 2012 at 12:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chris

      Good thing in Canada we have freedom of speech and not freedom to spread hate like the US has. He would not be protected under any Canadian laws.

      September 18, 2012 at 12:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • ChristopherM

      Freedom of speech is about a government intrusion on speech, not that of a private employer. Aside from that, he's in Canada, so the First Amendment does not apply. This is the kind of ignorance that results from the fact that we no longer teach Civics in the United States: idiots screeching about free speech when someone says something hateful that ticks off private citizens who then exercise their free speech rights to speak out against it.

      September 18, 2012 at 12:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • Know the Difference

      This is NOT a matter of free speech. All of the morons posting about free speech being the issue are too stupid to be breathing. You do not have free speech in a privately owned movie theater or theme park so why on Earth would you think you have it at work? These ball players are at work. I dare you to do the same thing at your job and see if you keep it.

      September 18, 2012 at 12:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • BobJackson

      Hey, guys... I believe DeeDee was being sarcastic. Lighten up a bit, huh? Not everything is THAT serious.

      September 18, 2012 at 12:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • Flatsguide

      Gee tjp44, you call DeeDee an idiot, and you don't even "no" how to spell "no". Kind of ironic, don't ya think?

      September 18, 2012 at 12:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • Lance

      "Those who know what's best for us, must right and save us from ourselves..."

      Ain't that right, DeeDee?

      September 18, 2012 at 1:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • Lance

      "Those who know what's best for us, must rise and save us from ourselves..."

      Ain't that right, DeeDee?

      (WTB edit functionality)

      September 18, 2012 at 1:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mike

      You need to live in a communist country then

      September 18, 2012 at 1:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • cleareye1

      Off the deep end!
      This kid will learn a valuable lesson from this. Making it to the big leagues does not mean you are smart. He seems to have left his brain in the minors somewhere. How would he like it if an Africa-American teammate had a slur about Latinos as a tattoo?
      Learn to keep your ignorance hidden. It helps make you look smart at least.

      September 18, 2012 at 1:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • Joe

      Maybe this is some sort of "inside joke" and he wore it to tease a team mate. According to this article the word in question has different meanings in different Latin American countries. What if he didn't know he was actually offending a segment of the population other than the team mate he was teasing? This actually could all be very innocent. I mean come on the coaches and manager had to see it on his face during the game and no one told him to remove it. That gives me an indication that this may something more than everyone is making it out to be. We will find out soon enough.

      September 18, 2012 at 1:57 pm | Report abuse |
  2. yomomma

    I should make some t shirts and sell them in the gay community that says "Yunel Escobar is the son of the biggest one"

    September 18, 2012 at 12:18 pm | Report abuse |
  3. yomomma

    en espanol of course lol

    September 18, 2012 at 12:20 pm | Report abuse |
  4. fernace

    As w/anything in life Free Speech comes w/responsibilities! If you're promoting intolerance for those different from you, in a public forum you Will have to explain your reasons & Will have to deal w/dissenting opinions! Free Speech doesn't stop w/the speaker, any1 w/an opinion can weigh in, because it's their free speech too! I can't go to my job, grocery store, resturant w/slurs written on my face or clothing & not expect some kind of backlash! Anything done in public is up for public scrutiny! Free Speech guarantees that we can voice our opinions, but it doesn't guarantee that every1 will like or agree w/what we say!!

    September 18, 2012 at 12:26 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Jason

    The Blue Jays have a season ticket holder?!

    September 18, 2012 at 12:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • BOMBO ©

      Toronto has a baseball team?

      September 18, 2012 at 2:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • J

      Stay classy...

      September 18, 2012 at 4:29 pm | Report abuse |
  6. bee dubya

    this is shocking thing we're going to learn is that athletes smoke pot and cheat on their wives

    September 18, 2012 at 12:38 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Sailor101

    I guess it comes down to whether or not he has a right to have an opinon and a right to express those opinions. I think the list of human rights it is number 3 or 5 that states each person has a right to express their opinions without fear of reprisal. (Even if it is an unpopular opinion). So should he be punished for expressing his opinion?

    September 18, 2012 at 12:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sailor101

      I stand corrected it is Article 19 of the UN's list of Human Rights.

      September 18, 2012 at 12:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • Know the Difference

      Article 19 or whatever you think it is is superceded by his employment contract. Get a clue. No one has a "right" to express any opinion when bound by a lawful contract that does not permit the expression of such. He should be punished if his employer wishes to do so under the terms of the employment contract. Why did you even bring this up? You obviously don't understand what's going on.

      September 18, 2012 at 12:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • mikem

      I suppose if the owner of the Toronto Blue Jays loves to bend over in the shower, then Escobar should go work somewhere else.

      September 18, 2012 at 1:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tad Bemenista

      Yeah, because the UN is such a powerful force to be reckoned with.

      What a dummy this guy is. What, he has to reinforce his own masculinity by doing this?

      September 18, 2012 at 2:11 pm | Report abuse |
  8. mikem

    Since when is saying something anti-gay considered grounds for disciplinary action? And we wonder why this nation is going downhill? When did gays get to be so especial? After they spread AIDS?

    September 18, 2012 at 12:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • claybigsby

      LOL when did dirty, smelly become special? After they border jump and take american jobs for pennies on the dollar? or when they border jump and have anchor babies in the state? Curious

      September 18, 2012 at 2:30 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Jay

    This is a big thing about nothing. I do not know what Yunel did that, but I want to give some context.
    Although Maricon/Marico are equivalent to Fa**ot in English, its use does not usually conveys the meaning but an expression. "Hola marico, como estas?" is a common way of greeting each other among teenagers and young people. They are jokingly using the word to tease each other.
    I know, is stupid, but hey, kids are like that everywhere right?

    The other thing is that the use of the word for people in Venezuela, Panama, Colombia & Cuba (and perhaps Argentina), might differ from the use in Mexico, Costa Rica, Salvador & Ecuador where it is always taken as an insult.

    September 18, 2012 at 1:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • claybigsby

      "They are jokingly using the word to tease each other."

      Oh so I can jokingly use the word, "s...pic" and it will be ok, right? Like if I say "you're a s...pic" to a bunch of white people, thats ok right?

      September 18, 2012 at 2:31 pm | Report abuse |
  10. katolungile

    Since he's laughing in the photo, I say yes he did!

    September 18, 2012 at 1:15 pm | Report abuse |
  11. TuEresMaricon

    We've gotten too sensitive these days.....lighten up people!

    September 18, 2012 at 1:26 pm | Report abuse |
  12. mercenary76

    united states of the easily offended

    September 18, 2012 at 1:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • jhed22

      This is taking place in Canada though.

      September 18, 2012 at 1:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • claybigsby

      didnt know toronto is in the US.

      September 18, 2012 at 2:32 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Gonfis

    If baseball doesn't get him, the government does 2% of the population get so much attention...............what a strange concept for taking offense. Those offended always purport an assumed high moral ground for the offense. Crucify him and feel good about yourselves...............

    September 18, 2012 at 1:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • latuya83

      What are you talking about the goverment is not going to go after him. MLB and the Toronto BlueJays are a private organization if they deem this as offensive and worthy of punishment then that's their right. This has nothing to do with the goverment, freedom of speech only deals with the goverment censoring your speech.

      September 18, 2012 at 3:29 pm | Report abuse |
  14. AverageJoe

    Nobody should be allowed to say anything mean!

    September 18, 2012 at 1:46 pm | Report abuse |
  15. yesyankees

    yes, the real take away pt here is that the blue jays have a season ticket holder

    September 18, 2012 at 2:04 pm | Report abuse |
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