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YORK -- Shortstop Yunel Escobar was suspended three games by the Blue Jays on Tuesday for displaying eye-black stickers containing a homophobic slur written in Spanish during Saturday's game in Toronto against the Red Sox.
Escobar, who said it was the only time he has written the derogatory word on his eye-black stickers before, expressed remorse for his actions and said it wasn't directed at anyone in particular. The slur that was displayed is a word often used among Latino players and was not intended to come across as offensive, according to Escobar.
The suspension came officially from the club and was delivered after general manager Alex Anthopoulos, among others, spent the day at the Commissioner's Office, with members of the MLB Players Association on hand. The GM said everyone was involved in the process, including the decision to hold a news conference to address the situation.
"I'm sorry for the actions of the other day," Escobar said through translator Robbie Guerra, a lawyer for the
Players Association, at a Tuesday news conference at Yankee Stadium. "I'd like to apologize to the fans and the Blue Jays organization. It's not something I intended to be offensive. It was nothing intentional or directed at anyone
in particular. I have nothing against homosexuals."
Blue Jays manager John Farrell, as well as coach Luis Rivera and slugger Edwin Encarnacion, said they had no idea that Escobar took the field with any offensive message written on his eye-black stickers.
Farrell believes that if any of Escobar's teammates saw what was written, they would have said something.
"There are a number of occasions where Yunel has written a message on the eye-black patches that he does wear
and because it is frequently done on his part, really, no one paid attention to it," Farrell said.
Escobar, who said he agrees with the penalty, didn't specifically address what the message was meant to say other than the fact it was a joke and directed at no one specifically.
"It is just something that has been said around amongst the Latinos, it's not something that is meant to be
offensive," Escobar said. "It's a word used often within teams. It's a word without a meaning.
"I am embarrassed and for the organization, the Blue Jays, as well."
Escobar first heard of the news Monday afternoon after a Blue Jays fan posted a photo of Escobar during Saturday's contest and a translation of what was written on the eye black.
The 29-year-old Cuban, who addressed his teammates about the matter before Tuesday's game was officially
postponed, said he has many gay friends and that they are not as offended as others about the situation.
Escobar said he wrote the message 10 minutes prior to Saturday's game, and he did it because he didn't think it
would bother anyone.
"Honestly, it has been a terrible experience in my life and career. It's something I am sorry for," Escobar said.
Farrell said he was surprised by what Escobar did, noting that it's out of character for the person he has come to know.
Anthopoulos talked about how important it is to educate players about using homophobic words, regardless of the context, and that was the big message he tried to drive home.
"I think what came out through all of this is the lack of education. It's not just an issue in sports,
it's an issue in life," Anthopoulos said. "It's clear that the problem isn't going away, this is just an example of it.
"[It's] something we are not proud of, we are not happy and Yunel is going to, I think now, become an advocate and work with those groups."
The education factor was the biggest thing the Commissioner's Office and Players Association was hoping to gain from this, according to Anthopoulos.
Commissioner Bud Selig released a statement Tuesday afternoon about Escobar's actions and subsequent suspension.
"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," Selig said. "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."
Farrell said he didn't think homophobia was a problem in MLB clubhouses.
"I don't believe so, and I say that because I don't see any examples of that. I know we're here discussing what was interpreted by someone as a homophobic action, but you don't see that," Farrell said.
Anthopoulos expressed his sympathy to the gay and lesbian communities and doubted whether all parties affected by Escobar's actions would be satisfied. But the important thing for him is how everything is handled moving forward.
"From a Latin perspective, the word is used a certain way -- it doesn't make it right, but that's not to say
it is just specific to one culture, one race, one dialect," Anthopoulos said.
"At the end of the day, the Blue Jays become a vehicle. ... Yunel becomes a vehicle to improve things, to make
things better. As unfortunate as all this is, some good will hopefully come from it."
Omar Vizquel echoed the same sentiments as Escobar, saying that the homophobic slur is used often among Latinos.
"I don't know why people are taking this so hard and so out of place or out of proportion," Vizquel said. "I'm surprised that I'm walking in here and everybody's asking me about this. It's like, 'What happened? Who died?' It's just a word that we use."
Dominican native Carlos Villanueva said Escobar was remorseful when he addressed the club and that he understands the mistake he made. But he also noted that being from Latin America is no excuse for using offensive language.
"He could be suspended for 20 games, and if he doesn't really care, it doesn't matter," Villanueva said. "The next step is for him to learn what he did is wrong and why it's wrong, and to go from there."
The salary lost by Escobar during his suspension will be donated by the Blue Jays to You Can Play and the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation. Escobar will also participate in an outreach initiative to help educate others about sensitivity and tolerance toward others based on sexual orientation and will undergo sensitivity training in accordance with the Blue Jays and Major League Baseball.