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. AtheisticallyYours


    September 19, 2012 at 1:12 am | Report abuse |
    • Conway Eastwood

      Toronto, Ontario is in the United States? I never knew that. Thanks!

      September 19, 2012 at 5:33 am | Report abuse |
  2. Karl

    Looking at the picture of his eye black, that is the same word that Benny "the Kid" Paret called Emile Griffith prior to their Boxing Championship fight in 1962. Griffith beat him so badly in the 12th round that Paret never regained consciousness. Anyone that speaks Spanish (especially in the United States) knows exactly what the meaning is and in every kitchen I have ever worked in, calling someone that was an automatic fight.

    September 19, 2012 at 1:21 am | Report abuse |

    Has anybody stopped to wonder if maybe he was making a statement about himself?

    September 19, 2012 at 1:48 am | Report abuse |
  4. barbraS

    It's great when people say for the gay community to get over themselves when somebody calls them this derogatory term. LGBT's are still getting harassed, beaten up, commit suicide and are killed but they are supposed to just let all this stupidity, bullying and death roll off their backs. Get over yourselves, clueless ones.

    September 19, 2012 at 1:54 am | Report abuse |
    • dan

      You do realize the exact same stuff happens to non-gays right?

      September 19, 2012 at 4:39 am | Report abuse |
  5. James

    All right, I give up! What does "that word" mean?

    September 19, 2012 at 5:49 am | Report abuse |
  6. Lady Di

    My Mexican co-workers taught me words that they thought was funny, because everytime I said them, they really laughed. One was Chupacabra. [meaning a bearded goat], and panocha [brown sugar], and another one was the word rice in Spanish that someone said was gay? Some things they taught me to say, they said never say them in Mexico.

    September 19, 2012 at 5:53 am | Report abuse |
  7. Philip

    Still, having the gay card rob you of 3 days pay is nothing compared to a life spent suffering from AIDS. The common flu virus kicks my butt for a week or so some years, and it's horrible. I couldn't imagine dying with AIDS kicking yer butt for years on end. Horrible. Just horrible.
    Really, the money should have gone into AIDS research instead of where it did. Being defamed is one thing. Dying is another.

    September 19, 2012 at 6:43 am | Report abuse |
  8. Puzzled on the toliet

    whats wrong with this?

    September 19, 2012 at 7:06 am | Report abuse |
  9. Jon

    As a gay man, this is being taken a little over the top. In Latin culture the word is used a lot looser than in American culture. Is it offense in American standards? Yes. Has this man committed some horrible act that requires he lose play time and go on this huge public relations campaign? I think not. Besides, all he has to do is look in a mirror and read what's on his face. Who's the _____ now?

    September 19, 2012 at 8:05 am | Report abuse |
    • melinda

      Thanks Jon! I agree AND you made me chuckle.

      September 19, 2012 at 9:47 am | Report abuse |
    • derp

      "Is it offense in American standards?"

      Toronto is now part of America?

      September 19, 2012 at 3:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • mario0915

      thank you Jon, thank you!!!! people in this country just dont get it.
      that word is used by Cubans and most Latin with no intentions or malice at all...the Word is used just llike Leslie chow uses his during the Hangover when he says all the time...Hello G ..... B..... if you have seen the movie it means nothing.
      but if you want the prefect example rent a Movie .." One good cop" Micheal Keaton and tony planas (cuban) keaton is a cop , planas a drug dealer...keaton steals $$$ from him , as he is doing that Planas (actor's name) says to him...when keaton is trowing his $$$ out the window...M....... M....... you SOB....m......
      later in the movie Planas is fighting Keaton and starts shooting and says Take this M...... take this m.......
      watch the movie.
      it means nothing people!!! nothing
      what surprises me is that Yunel broght an interpreter and didnt't really use him to explain what i just did and what Jon did...probably becasuse he wanted to just be done with it , so he went with the story...
      again, Watch that movie...and i am pretty sure that there are many movies with those examples...

      September 19, 2012 at 7:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dan

      Learn your geography.

      September 21, 2012 at 10:27 am | Report abuse |
    • Mike

      When I went to school Toronto was part of North America.

      September 22, 2012 at 1:32 am | Report abuse |
    • cynthia

      He's not in a Latino based culture/country. The gays and lesbians here would only see it as a slur. We lived in Scotland for a few years, there were words that Americans used as a tease, but were highly offensive to local citizens. We were polite and considerate, didn't use them. You know was easy, didn't hurt us a bit.

      September 22, 2012 at 3:58 am | Report abuse |
  10. Rick

    What a cowardly, collective mania on display here - a desperate rush to be counted among the heroes responsible for protecting a class deemed in any seriousness only by its own would-be protectors as inferior, pathetic and needy.

    Straight gay or other, anyone who acts offended by that eyeblack is just an overinvested whiney suck, making the prank look prophetic. If the gay organizations temporarily receiving Escobar's salary had some self-respect and credibility, they'd give it back and do something for once to counter mounting evidence that they're just professional victims who thrive on trivial stuff like this. Those of us who are gay or have gay friends with skins actually thicker than tissue paper know the difference between a real problem and an opportunity to be patronized.

    September 19, 2012 at 8:23 am | Report abuse |
    • tuffboy

      I would sort of agree. That is the shallow take on the story. But if you take a ACLU approach to this...where does it end? If role models and public figures make it acceptable to insult any group of individuals, gay, disabled, black...then normal people all jump on the bandwagon. Kids who never knew they could put words on their face that way will be showing up at football practice with insults meant to make someone else feel inferior (for no reason other than their belonging to a minority) written under their eyes. As insignificant as this may be in a normal day of a normal person in a normal situation, these people are not normal, the situation was not normal and worldwide attention is drawn to it. As they warned Kate Middleton, we are watching. Watch yourselves. Prince Harry with a swastika on his arm? He was just having fun...did that really require an apology? I think the two situations are very similar.

      September 19, 2012 at 10:04 am | Report abuse |
    • mario0915

      Escobar did Absolutely nothing Wrong.
      if I was Escobar's lawyer and will win 100 millions from MLB for him
      the Latin culture is totally diff , most Latins use that word like Leslie chow use it on both Movies the Hangover, and if you Rent a movie " One Goog cop" you will see clearly what i am talking about
      So, chow and eveybody else can use it in movies but Escobar cant to what it was probably a Prank to Hechavarria (also cuban ) or Encarnacion, Sierra or to some or the other latin players....likie standing in front of them and when they see the black patches it would be like a joke...? that;s what that was people...ok that's what that was...
      it means nothing at all.
      it really beats the heck out of me , why he didn't spend 10 minutes triying to explain a detailed explanation like i done here 3 times alrready...I dont know why he didn't defend himself.
      believe me i am not excusing him, i do thing it was out of line but common people...get in the program, we have been here for over 100 years !!! there are 52 millions of Latin Descendants in the U.S , are you going to tell me nobody knows what I just explained!!!!!???? I just dont believe that!

      September 19, 2012 at 7:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • mario0915

      Rick, this is a waste of time...people in the U.S are becoming Sentiive to anything others said
      you cant even Argue with a black person anymore because you will be called Racist...even calling them blacks creates a needs to be "African american"
      really , have you ever heard of African Irish, African english, African Brasilian, African Polish, African Italian...Never!!!
      also Reversed discrimination is all over the place nowdays , but of course nobody wants to talk about it....because it is Reversed discrimination if you talk about it.......hello?

      September 19, 2012 at 8:00 pm | Report abuse |
  11. question

    Would it be politically correct for someone to go out of their way to protect himself and and his family from dreaded disease?
    Like, not allowing his children to associate with others who choose to live in high risk groups for contracting AIDS like needle sharers.
    Would it be politically correct for me to single-out needle sharers?

    September 19, 2012 at 8:27 am | Report abuse |
    • Frank

      No thats OFFENSIVE!

      September 19, 2012 at 8:30 am | Report abuse |
    • Ross

      I don't know if you meant for this to be sarcastic, but if not, it's a clear insight into ignorance and lack of education of the spread of infectious disease.

      If it was meant to be a joke, I'd be careful about the way you present it, because on the internet, it seems like you believe it, and unfortunately there are a lot of people in this world that believe it.

      What you have to remember is that vulnerable populations (I'm talking about children here), are very sensitive to labels that a group of people use to single them out, to make them feel different, to show them they are unlike everyone else, and make that label mean something inferior. Any time we stifle a young person into thinking they are inferior, it perpetuates a feeling of guilt, depression, and sadness that unfortunately leads thousands of children a year to take their own lives. These labels include several racial slurs, gender based slurs, weight based slurs, religious slurs– we seem to have a problem in this country with racial slurs (rightly so), but not gender based slurs, or religious based slurs. When you use one word to describe a person you are assigning them a label that you feel they define and that they are defined by that label. We are never represented by a single label, but a mere collection of several different parts.

      I understand that in this situation, it can frequently have other meanings, but until he can share what that meaning was, he deserves his punishment, which to his salary, clearly won't dampen his overall financial situation. I mean he has a gay decorator and stylist. Those aren't cheap- it's good quality!

      September 19, 2012 at 2:43 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Frank

    Exactly. I would sue those ba&&turds from hell to breakfast for taking my money, punishing me for expressing MY VIEW! ITS AGAINST THE LAW to force people to LIKE a bunch of sodomites! No matter how you slice it sodomy among men is SICKENING!

    September 19, 2012 at 8:28 am | Report abuse |
  13. Frank

    People of the United States of America USA and Canada,
    OK,so he was expressing his dislike of the idea of a Male reproductive organ being inserted into another Males rectum and both Males getting off on it, So What?No freedom of speech in MLB? What?

    September 19, 2012 at 1:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • derp

      Frank, when your employer pays you zillions of dollars and expects you not to offend his customers, you probably shouldn't offend his customers.

      September 19, 2012 at 3:37 pm | Report abuse |
  14. ray bordier

    I'm gay and it's okay with me.

    September 19, 2012 at 3:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • ray bordier

      I mean that I'm okay with being gay. Not that he called me gay. all know what I mean. I'm proud to be gay.

      September 19, 2012 at 3:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rick

      Just to be clear, you say you're gay and you're okay with being gay, but not with being called gay? - And you think Escobar called you gay?

      September 19, 2012 at 5:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • Lynda Elaine

      If you are so 'proud' then why are you scared of the word gay? it is just a word and only has a negative meaning if you give it one. Grow up dude. you are GAY..nothing wrong with that.

      September 20, 2012 at 1:51 pm | Report abuse |
  15. babe

    Its hard enough keeping kids away from beliefs a parent feels is unnatural to have stories like this always popping up. Once a person reaches adulthood then fine if he/she wants that sort of lifestyle its their choice. But while under my roof that sort of behavior will not be tolorated. Keep it under the rug where it belongs.

    September 19, 2012 at 5:51 pm | Report abuse |
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