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Blue Jays' Yunel Escobar suspended over homophobic slur

September 18, 2012|By Lisa Dillman
  • Yunel Escobar of the Blue Jays during a game last week.
Yunel Escobar of the Blue Jays during a game last week. (Getty Images )

Yunel Escobar, the Toronto Blue Jays' Cuban-born shortstop, was suspended by his team for three games after photos surfaced online of an offensive phrase for homosexuals written in Spanish in the eye black he wore on his face during a weekend game.

"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. "Salary lost by Yunel Escobar during his suspension will be directed by the Toronto Blue Jays to You Can Play and the GLAAD. Yunel will participate in an outreach initiative to help educate society about sensitivity and tolerance." (You Can Play is an organization that works against eliminating bias against gays in athletics. GLAAD is the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation.)

Escobar, the Toronto Blue Jays' Cuban-born shortstop, landed in a firestorm of controversy after photos of the offensive words he displayed surfaced online.

Professor Michelle Gonzalez, a Cuba expert at the University of Miami, told the Toronto Star, “I suppose people will use it in jest, but I don’t know if that makes it any less offensive.”

MLB spokesman Pat Courtney said that the commissioner’s office is looking into the reports, and the Blue Jays released this statement Monday night:

"The club takes this situation seriously and is investigating the matter. We do not support discrimination of any kind nor condone the message displayed by Yunel Escobar during Saturday's game" against the Boston Red Sox on Saturday.

Blue Jays executives and Escobar were scheduled to address the controversy later Tuesday in New York, where Toronto is set to open a three-game series against the Yankees.

The story was on the front page of Tuesday's Toronto Globe and Mail and among the leading news stories on Canadian TV.

Patrick Burke, president of You Can Play, talked about taking the necessary next steps in a radio interview Tuesday morning.  

"Our priority now is whether it is us or another group or whoever it might be, someone working with Yunel, letting him know why this is unacceptable," Burke told Sportsnet 590 in Toronto.

"They might not know exactly what the corresponding words are. They just think it is another word. And our priority now is on education. Someone has to let Escobar know why he can't do stuff like this. Why it is offensive and why it is harmful to the LGBT community."

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