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.
It might have been a completely different conversation if, under one eye, he had "I am" instead of "you are".
It's an offensive word, no matter what the language or Country.
who cares !!!
The God I believe in loves all his children...even you!
Ah yes. The though police are at work again. Just waiting for Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson to show up.
Free speech is fine, but there has never been freedom of repercussions from free speech.
I figure he wrote the slur on his face as a little friendly insult/intimidation to the opposing team! However, I'm pretty sure it would have cased just as much backlash if he'd written pus.sy or the N word on his face! It's about degrading descriptions of others, not necessesarily about gays!!
Funny how this all happens while American media drums up the hate machine for Arabs.
The stupid dolt should be suspended three additional games for spelling "eres" wrong.
Why suspend this guy? Who cares? If you care, you need a life.
Another example of the "PC garbage" being totally out of hand. Thanks libs!
Libs? He was an embarrassment to his organization. He degraded their product. His bosses have the right to deal with him as they see fit. Why do you hate the Free Market?
It is not necessary to slur people. They are the least necessary words. We can describe the word around us without them.
I do not believe he has been reprimanded enough...3 game suspension without pay and the $80,000 salary going to charity? Please...these guys spend more than that on a late night snack at home...and the fan who raised the issue...he should be invited back to the Rogers Centre by Escobar.
What a joke..... It is not a big deal at all. I think it is ridiculous how eye black is offensive to the gay community. They need to get over themselves.
Why is so much being made about what was clearly a humorous & harmless joke. People like Alexander Berkman are absolutly WRONG – it is my bussiness if someone is engaging in sodomy behind one's bedroom doors – sodomy is an ABOMINATION in The Eyes of Almighty God & all the sodomites must be locked up for life. That & only that is the real God-given solution.to this repungnent and vile behavior !!!
He is trying to play games with the language. The word MA-RI-CON in Spanish is insulting, derogatory and a serious provocation; Depending on the context of place, timing, audience and to whom is directed at or say to, or who you call such. It can and has caused many men to be killed. If you go to a spanish speaking country don't even think of trying it, not even among friends.
However it is not hom-ophobic at all. In spanish speaking countries is usually used to demean and point out lack of man-ly-ness. Or just to start a fight or brawl; Again depending on the situation, location or timing. Funny thing is that none of the other hispanic players in the team are reported, saying what they thought of it.
One must ask; What was he thinking? Did he really thougt that nobody watching the game on TV will be able to understand? Millions of spanish speaking people watch baseball on TV. But again, here is one more example among thousands, of someone making millions of $$$ without mucho mental or intelectual capabilities.
In a spanish speaking country or in a group of such. If the man being called such is NOT. You might be killed without any hesitation on the part of the offended party.
On the other hand, those who are such in this country need to get back to the closet. You are NOT in charge of the country yet. This is NOT a country full of such yet. Ho-mo-se-xua-lity is an aberration against nature and the natural order of things as they were Created.
You do realize your god made the people you fear and despise. And you're arguing with yourself.
I would think free speech....oh yeah, we're talking about offending a lib. Sorry my bad.
More liberal PC crap. Hypocrites.