By Brody Levesque | NEW YORK, NY -- During a news conference held Tuesday, the Toronto Blue Jays announced that shortstop Yunel Escobar is suspended from play in this week’s three-game series against the New York Yankees for an anti-gay slur written under his eyes during last Saturday's home game against the Boston Red Sox.
Blue Jays first base coach Torey Lovullo acted as an interpreter for Escobar who told reporters;
"I apologize to the Jay's fans and baseball fans in general. It wasn't anything personal, it was something I always do with the stickers on my eyes," Escobar said, adding; "I regret what happened and this is something that will never happen again. It is a lesson I learned and I will never commit again. I’m sorry I didn’t want this to be misinterpreted by the gay community."
Tuesday's decision to suspend Escobar came after a series of meetings with the ballplayer and the club's management, Major League Baseball and the MLB Players’ Association.
The salary forfeited by Escobar's during his suspension will go to You Can Play and the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation.
He will also participate in an outreach initiative to help educate society about sensitivity and tolerance to others based on their sexual orientation, and attend a sensitivity training program in accordance with the agreement reached between him, the Blue Jays and MLB.
Escobar took to the diamond Saturday during a game with the Boston Red Sox with “You are a faggot” written in Spanish on his eye black strips.
A close-up photo heavily circulated online in social media showed the words “Tu ere maricon” — Spanish for “You’re a faggot” — on the black tape.
Some Spanish-speaking people have claimed on sports talk radio and in comments left around the web on numerous sites that reported the incident, that the phrase is sometimes used, particularly by men, in a joking way, not in a literal form intended to insult.
"That word doesn't have the same significance that we [Latinos] put into it. That's a word we use often among players," Escobar said during the press conference.
"It was a joke between us players, it wasn't the first time I write something on the stickers. It wasn't directed at anybody specifically.
It went from a joke to a big problem and I never thought it was gonna become something bad and people would take it this way. I agree with the suspension and I don't have a problem with it."
Escobar is not the only professional athlete to have used a homophobic slur. Canadian Broadcasting Company sportswriter Tony Care listed some of the more recent examples:
- 2000: In what is still considered one of the most homophobic, sexist and racist rants, former Atlanta Braves pitcher John Rocker explained to Sports Illustrated his reasons for not wanting to play in New York City. After his appeal, Rocker was suspended for the first 14 games of the season.
- 2006: Then Chicago White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen was quoted as calling former Chicago Sun-Times columnist Jay Mariotti a “f--.” Guillen was fined and ordered to attend sensitivity training.
- 2011: Atlanta Braves pitching coach Roger McDowell was suspended for two weeks after using a gay slur and making crude gestures to fans in San Francisco.
- 2011: Los Angeles Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant was fined $100,000 US for using a derogatory gay term at a referee during a game against the San Antonio Spurs.
- 2011: Chicago Bulls centre Joakim Noah was captured on camera throwing an anti-gay slur at a fan following a second foul in a playoff loss to the Miami Heat. He was fined $50,000 for his actions.
- 2012: Houston Dynamo midfielder Colin Clark was suspended three games with pay for uttering a gay slur at a Seattle Sounders ball boy. The offensive term was picked up by microphones for the nationally televised game.