May 26, 2013
Escobar banned three games for gay slur
Toronto Blue Jays shortstop Yunel Escobar apologized after he was suspended three Major League Baseball (MLB) games for sporting a homophobic slur on his face during a recent game.
Escobar learned Monday afternoon that he was in trouble when a Blue Jays fan posted pictures of him on Twitter.
The short-stop faced a crowded news conference at Yankee Stadium, where the Blue Jays were due to begin a three-game series against New York, to apologize and explain.
"I was surprised because I didn't think that something like that would cause any problems," Escobar said through a translator supplied by the New York Yankees. "I didn't do it to offend anybody, so it surprised me."
He pointed out that he has gay friends, including his interior decorator and barber, and added, "honestly, they haven't felt as offended about this, there's just a different understanding in the Latin community with this word."
"I didn't intend to be offensive. It's something I just put on the sticker on my face as a joke. Nothing intentional was directed at anybody in particular," the 29-year-old Cuban said quietly through an interpreter.
"I don't have anything against homosexuals. I would like to apologize to anybody offended by this."
Escobar, whose suspension was handed down by the Blue Jays, took the field for last Saturday's game against the Boston Red Sox with an offensive slur written in Spanish on black stickers players wear under their eyes to reduce the glare from the sun.
"The suspension is the result of his decision to display an unacceptable message while participating in a major league game," the Blue Jays said in a statement. "The Blue Jays want to reaffirm that discrimination of any kind will not be tolerated."
The Blue Jays said Escobar would donate his pay from the three games to an outreach initiative and participate in their efforts to help educate society about sensitivity and tolerance to others based on their sexual orientation.
Escobar, whose suspension begins immediately, said he often writes messages on his eye black and that this one was scribbled on about 10 minutes before the game without much thought.
"I didn't mean for this to be interpreted this way by the gay community. I apologize," he said.
Asked what the message meant to him, Escobar said, "It's something said around by Latinos. It's not something that's meant to be offensive. It doesn't have the significance to the way that it's being interpreted now.
"That's a word used often within teams. It's a word without meaning the way we use it."
The word, however, holds a negative connotation, something Escobar did not understand, according to Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos.
"The problem is one of education, language and insensitivity," said Anthopoulos. "There have been other examples in sports, society.
"If the Blue Jays become a vehicle, if Yunel becomes a vehicle to make things better, hopefully something good will come from it."
The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) issued a statement backing the decision.
"Today's actions show that MLB and the Toronto Blue Jays are committed to creating an environment that all fans and families can enjoy, not a place where discriminatory language and anti-gay attitudes are accepted," GLAAD President Herndon Graddick said.
Backing him up on that front was Miami Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen, who told reporters: "I think this kid did it without the intention to hurt anybody. I think he did it just for fun. But in our country we do that. We're not in our country."
"In my house we call that word every 20 seconds," added Guillen. "I've got three kids. For us it's like 'What's up bro? What's up dude?' It's how you say it and to who you say it. But that's our country. We have to respect this country. Sometimes for us it's funny, for other people it's not."
For those apt to dismiss the often controversial Guillen, universally respected veteran Blue Jays infielder Omar Vizquel couldn't understand all the commotion in the clubhouse Tuesday afternoon.
"I'm surprised that I'm walking in here and everybody's asking me about this. It's like, 'What happened? Who died?'" he said.
"We say that word very often, and to us, it doesn't really mean that we are decreasing anybody or talking down to people or anything like that. It's just a word we use on an everyday basis. I don't know why people are taking this so hard and so out of place or out of proportion."