Blue Jays shortstop Yunel Escobar received a three-game suspension and apologized yesterday for writing a derogatory term for gays on the eye-black stickers he wore during Saturday's game at Rogers Centre. He also will undergo sensitivity training.
"Because it's frequently done on his part, no one really paid attention to it," Blue Jays manager John Farrell said of Escobar's practice of scribbling words on the stickers. "The size of the lettering is so small that if you were to view it, you'd have to basically be looking in his eyes."
The message, which was written in Spanish, got the attention of the commissioner's office, and Escobar, along with team officials, met Tuesday morning at Major League Baseball's midtown headquarters. The punishment handed down by the Blue Jays was done in conjunction with the league.
"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," commissioner Bud 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."
Escobar repeatedly said that he did not intend to hurt anyone with the message. He had a difficult time explaining his rationale for believing it would be accepted without uproar. He also said that he has many gay friends. "The person who decorates my house is gay," Escobar said through an interpreter. "The person who cuts my hair is gay. I have various friends who are gay. Honestly, they haven't felt as offended about this. They have a different understanding in the Latin community with this word."
He added: "I understand the actions I did now and that it was a great error."
The Blue Jays held the news conference before Tuesday night's game at Yankee Stadium was postponed by rain.
"It's a lot of range of emotions," general manager Alex Anthopoulos said. "But I think what came out through all of this is the lack of education. I know it's just not an issue in sports. It's an issue in life. It's not getting solved today. This is just an example of it. How do we take this and try to improve what's going on in this world right now. It's something we're not proud of. We're not happy. Suspending someone doesn't fix the problem."