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. BOMBO ©

    The only thing that would suck about being famous is that you can't say ANYTHING. The rest of us can go on the internet and be as offensive as we like, and hide behind names like bombo.

    September 18, 2012 at 2:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tad Bemenista


      September 18, 2012 at 2:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • BOMBO ©

      Ha. Did you write that yourself or hire a professional? Now, go strut like the big boy that you are.

      September 18, 2012 at 2:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • BOMBO ©

      Wow. Mods at high speed today.

      September 18, 2012 at 2:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tad Bemenista

      I thought your comment was funny, so I said so. What is the matter with you, didn't get a hug from mommy? FO.

      September 18, 2012 at 2:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • banasy©

      Dang, Bombo, at ease!
      We have mods here??

      September 18, 2012 at 2:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • Loki

      Ha ha Bombo.... That's a sneaky Polish word for Africans.

      September 18, 2012 at 3:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • sam stone

      Famous people can go on the internet anonymously, too

      September 18, 2012 at 3:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • BOMBO ©

      That was in response to a comment that has been deleted. That's why I followed it right away with the high speed mod comment. It looked like they were deleting it at the same time as I was posting my response.

      September 18, 2012 at 8:25 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Tad Bemenista

    Like you forcing your religion right now? Be quiet. You'd be having kittens if he had written GOD SUX there.

    September 18, 2012 at 2:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bill the Cat

      The funny thing is that you GET to say that, and it isn't considered hatred...

      September 18, 2012 at 4:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rick

      Actually, the sad thing is that nothing would have happened if he had written God sucks. Show how sad our country has truly become!!!!!

      September 18, 2012 at 4:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dan I

      Funny thing is that if he had written "God Sux" there is a chance not much would have happened since he plays for TORONTO in CANADA and they are not nearly as beholden to the religious fundamentalists as we are in the U.S.

      September 19, 2012 at 7:51 am | Report abuse |
    • Chuck

      That's because saying god sucks is the same as saying the tooth fairy sucks. An insult to an imaginary figure isn't really an insult is it?

      September 25, 2012 at 2:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bob

      Nice reply Tad!!! So true!

      September 18, 2012 at 8:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • jaydog

      No, actually if he had put GOD SUX, he would have been offered a high profile job in the Obama administration.

      September 19, 2012 at 9:00 am | Report abuse |
  3. a casual observer

    I thought someone would fail to see the sarcasm and take you seriously within 2 minutes. I was right.

    September 18, 2012 at 2:17 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Munkiman

    I really dont get whats so bad all it says is "you are gay" the only way u can be offended by this is if in fact your are gay and you didnt want noone else to know but then again if u dont want anyone to know keep your mouth shut.

    September 18, 2012 at 2:18 pm | Report abuse |
  5. toofarawayfromboston

    He knew what he was writing and the connotation he intended. Hope he's really proud of himself.

    September 18, 2012 at 2:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • stupid is as stupid does

      Get over it sally, why take offense to writen words unreal, get your mangina out of a bunch and move on.

      September 18, 2012 at 2:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      @stupid is as stupid does

      Apt name.
      However.. I challenge you to walk around in public with the Fvck dem “n” word, spelled correctly and in bold. No one should bother you right?

      September 18, 2012 at 3:02 pm | Report abuse |
  6. a really bad pun

    Well, this certainly gives the sport of baseball a black eye.

    September 18, 2012 at 2:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • alterego88

      I see what you did there

      September 18, 2012 at 4:24 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Canadian

    Wait until the Queen hears aboot this, eh.

    September 18, 2012 at 2:25 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Rodeoguy

    Oh brother,. . . .what next?

    September 18, 2012 at 2:29 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Jake

    You gotta make the money first, Escobar. Then when you get the money, you get the power. Then, when you get the power...

    September 18, 2012 at 2:34 pm | Report abuse |
  10. anna

    Gosh all this hullabaloo over nothing!
    Who cares what message he has on his face? No one! Except of course the 'funny people" LOL

    September 18, 2012 at 2:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • claybigsby

      Obviously MLB cares, the Blue Jays care, Fans care. Its not just the "funny people" you dumb c...unt.

      September 18, 2012 at 2:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • stupid is as stupid does

      i agree anna, it is words nothing more nothing less, just like the old saying sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt. why be offended by a word, peole man thats gay, you also know the definition of gay means happy. He was just stating that you are happy

      September 18, 2012 at 2:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • MrComments

      Actually the TEAM and the LEAGUE do. He has a Contract, and that was a violation of it. Pretty basic and simple stuff here.

      September 25, 2012 at 5:05 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Jeses

    what would jesse do? and yes, I mean jesse (hes a good friend of mine) not Jesus – because we all know there aint no such thing as fairy tales

    September 18, 2012 at 2:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • goodasyours

      a fool says in his heart –no GOD

      September 18, 2012 at 4:06 pm | Report abuse |
  12. banasy©

    Whatever his purpose was, he sure succeeded in getting his name out there...I have never heard of him before today.

    September 18, 2012 at 2:41 pm | Report abuse |
  13. a eli

    this camera guy from Canada can read and is fluent in the Spanish language ???? i am Mexican and i don't know every bad word in my language...

    September 18, 2012 at 2:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • claybigsby

      Is it really that hard to google the phrase after the fact? Just cuz you are a mexicant and dont understand the language fully doesn't mean a white canadian doesn't either.

      September 18, 2012 at 2:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Is this guy really bragging for being partially illiterate?

      September 18, 2012 at 3:06 pm | Report abuse |
  14. rob

    Escobar is too stupid and/or bigoted to stay on the team. The Blue Jays either need to suspend or fire him.

    September 18, 2012 at 2:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • Maddy Gascar

      Do you write it on your face, ted? If you do, you will deserve whatever comes your way.

      September 18, 2012 at 3:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      If I wrote the any slur on my face and walked into work…yes I’d be fired ted. To say nothing of going on national TV in uniform. Then again I’m not working under the table at my brother-in-laws shop.

      September 18, 2012 at 3:08 pm | Report abuse |
  15. ted

    Greenhalgh calls Escobar's actions "very disappointing," adding that ho mo pho bic slurs "are not acceptable insults in 2012.". Hmm... What are the acceptable insults in 2012? When everything's a crime, everyone's a criminal. When will we stop demonizing every stupid thing someone says?

    September 18, 2012 at 2:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • ted

      Wow, had to post several times before I realized the word that got me from getting on was one included in the article. Amazing. That's Censored News Network for you. They can say it, but we can't.

      September 18, 2012 at 2:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • Maddy Gascar

      Um...when stupid people stop saying them?

      September 18, 2012 at 3:11 pm | Report abuse |
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