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 BaseballÂ officialsÂ 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 donâ€™t have anything against homosexuals," Escobar said. "I have friends who are gay.Â 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 itâ€™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 partÂ 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'mÂ embarrassed."
MLBÂ commissionerÂ 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 responsibilitiesÂ and that I expect those who represent Major League Baseball to act with the kind of respect and sensitivity that the gameâ€™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 hasÂ 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.
hateful, very hateful. I pray for your heart to soften.
A soft heart isn't what matters in the bedroom.
Try me, majav?
No, thanks. Soft bald guys are not my type.
Yes, but a well educated tongue is.
what matters in anyone's bedroom but your own is absolutely no concern of yours.
Really? then you obviously dont know how to do It.
Russ – Well said.
I get called a "maricon" a lot and I'm not complaining. Tee hee!
He should have written mariposa. It is much sweeter- like his puffy lips. Did he have a nose job?
Amaricon baseball isn't exactly a bastion of propriety.
I'm getting tired of the PC crowd. Anyone else?
II'm right there with you, Mark Cal. What started out as a well-intentioned movement has gotten completely out of hand. PC is now the scourge of our free society.
I get called that all the time...and I love it.
I really don't get what possesses people to do this kinda stuff. Can't we all just get along? Isn't that what Jesus would want?
This is the first time I've seen a "str8" guy write gay on his face..lol..what a weirdo
Loki – The hate behind the word is important and sad.
Chris Kluwe, a punter for the Minnesota Vikings, can write a profanity and insult-laiden letter to a US congressman, and it gets called "free speech", yet Escobar gets crucified for FAR less obscene language? What a country we live in... facepalm...
If you read the story carefully, which I know is a hard thing for some to do, you'd realize he plays for Toronto, which last I checked was in Canada.
Bliz, Minnesota isn't in Canada.
You just don't get it.
What country are you referring to? The United Provinces of Canadamerica?
Bill the Cat
Bliz, Minnesota isn't in Canada.
Bill the Cat, Toronto isn't in Minnesota.
Billthecat, yet another ignoramus who has proven to have zero knowledge of what freedom of speech means. It has never meant that you can say anything, anyplace, anytime.
Educate yourself, then come back and join the adult conversation.
Bill: Yunel Escobar plays for the Toronto Blue Jays, not the Twins. Who really cares what a Cuban living and working in Canada thinks about gays? ITS NOT A LAW TO HAVE TO LIKE GAYS nor to not have an OPINION on the subject. I donâ€™t care one way or the other. If youâ€™re gay, youâ€™re gay and have a right to express yourself. if you donâ€™t like gays, you donâ€™t like gays and should be able to express yourself too. Itâ€™s just as offensive to some to have an over the top parade of obnoxious flaming gays as it is for some guy to put a word on his face. If he wants to write the word "f.a.g." under his eye, go ahead. He suffered the consequence of his employer saying thatâ€™s not acceptable while on the job and heâ€™s paying the price.
@Jackson, that is exactly what it means!
@Jackson, just keep letting them take a little bit more of your free speech away everyday,and soon you will have none, but it will be too late for people like you to realize it.
"that is exactly what it means!"
No it doesn't you simpleton. Research then come back and discuss.
I'm a member of the gay community and all this rhetoric is starting to scare me. If this keeps up we'll be robots without a mind to think for self.
Escobar has always been a loose cannon.
I'm so tired of these young men acting like there in high school. Dude you know what you were doing, you just didn't expect somebody to to take a picture. Oh yea, "I have friends that are gay", yada, yada!
Cut him some slack. I have friends that are idiots.
Dumb athlete does something dumb. Stop the presses.
Freedom of speech is a right we should use and not abuse. He should have the book thrown at him.
@jackson, that's exactly what it means and more and more of our free speech is taken away everyday and people like you don't even realize it!!