Toronto Blue Jays shortstop Yunel Escobar was suspended for three games after he wore eye-black patches bearing an anti-gay slur in Spanish.
Escobar, a 29-year-old Cuban, will miss the team’s three-game series against the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium, the Blue Jays announced in an e-mailed release. The suspension was agreed on by Major League Baseball and its players union. Last night’s scheduled first game of the series was rained out and will be played today as part of a day-night doubleheader.
Several pictures posted online from the Blue Jays’ Sept. 15 game against the Boston Red Sox show Escobar with a Spanish phrase that can be roughly translated as “you are a homosexual” written in his eye-black patches, worn to reduce the sun’s glare.
Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig said in a statement that Escobar acknowledged his mistake.
“I consistently say that baseball is a social institution with important social responsibilities,” Selig said. “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.”
Escobar’s salary during his ban will be directed by the Blue Jays to You Can Play and the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, the team said in the release.
“The Blue Jays want to reaffirm that discrimination of any kind will not be tolerated,” according to the team’s statement.
You Can Play is an organization dedicated to ensuring equality and respect for all athletes regardless of sexual orientation. The alliance’s website says it amplifies the voice of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, or LGBT community, by “empowering real people to share their stories,” and “holding the media accountable for the words and images they present.”
“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 in a statement.
Escobar will also participate in a program promoting tolerance to others based on their sexual orientation, and a sensitivity training program in accordance with the Blue Jays and baseball, according to the release.
Athletes have made “tremendous progress” in their public support of LGBT equality, Dan Rafter, a spokesman for the Human Rights Campaign, said in a telephone interview.
“It’s always frustrating to see someone that is in the public eye send that sort of message,” Rafter said of Escobar. “This incident is certainly unfortunate, but it’s not at all representative of what we’re seeing in the sports world.”
Rafter mentioned athletes, such as National Football League linebackers Scott Fujita and Brendon Ayanbadejo and National Basketball Association guard Steve Nash, who have called attention to LGBT equality issues in recent years.
He said his group, the largest civil-rights organization working to achieve equality for LGBT Americans, had no plans to attend the Blue Jays’ games in New York, or organize a protest of Escobar’s actions.