Toronto Blue Jays shortstop Yunel Escobar will miss this week’s three-game series against the hometown New York Yankees for an anti-gay slur written under his eyes during a Sept. 15 home game against Boston.
The three-game suspension, which begins Wednesday in the first of two games as part of a day/night doubleheader following Tuesday's rainout, was meted out by the team after being agreed upon after Escobar met with Blue Jays management, Major League Baseball and the MLB Players’ Association.
"I apologize to the Jays 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 through an interpreter at a news conference at Yankee Stadium.
"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."
Escobar played Saturday's home game against Boston with a homophobic slur written in Spanish on the black sun glare stickers under his eyes. The words were "TU ERE MARICON," which can be translated as "You are a fa--ot."
"Tu wasn't anyone, when I meant 'you' I wasn't referring to anyone specifically. It's just a word," said Escobar, adding he wrote the words 10 minutes before first pitch.
Some Spanish-speaking people have said since the incident that the phrase is sometimes used, particularly by men, in a joking way, not in a literal form intended to insult.
'A joke between players'
"That word doesn't have the same significance that we [Latinos] put into it. That's a word we use often among players," said Escobar. "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 told reporters he has nothing against the gay community and nothing against those who were affected by his comments.
"I have close friends that are gay," he said, "my home decorator is gay, my hair stylist is gay and I have several friends that are gay. And they haven't felt offended about the situation. This is just a language misunderstanding."
Baseball commissioner Bud Selig said the league supports Tuesday's decision to suspend Escobar.
'“Major League Baseball commends [the Blue Jays] for handling this situation appropriately and promptly. 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 will participate in an outreach initiative to help educate society about sensitivity and tolerance to others based on their sexual orientation, and also attend a sensitivity training program in accordance with the Blue Jays and MLB.
You Can Play, an organization dedicated to eliminating homophobia in sports, was founded by Patrick Burke, the son of Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke.
Patrick Burke said via Twitter he was satisfied with how the Jays handled the situation.
"Combined discipline with education to ensure everyone learns from this," he tweeted.
Escobar made his big-league debut with Atlanta in 2007 and was traded to the Blue Jays in 2010.
Escobar is batting .259 this season with nine home runs and 49 runs batted in.With files from The Canadian Press