Roughly 10 minutes before taking the field against the Red Sox on Saturday, Blue Jays shortstop Yunel Escobar applied his usual eye black with writing under his eyes. Three days later, he was forced to apologize for its content.
While no member of the Blue Jays noticed the anti-gay slur written in Spanish, photographs of it quickly surfaced online from fans and from Getty Images.
Escobar was summoned to the office of MLB?Commissioner Bud Selig’s and handed a three-game suspension by the Blue Jays.
“I’m sorry for the actions of the other day,” Escobar said through a translator during a 30-minute news conference at Yankee Stadium. “It was not something I intended to be offensive. It was something I just put on the sticker on my face as a joke. There was nothing intentional directed at anyone in particular.
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“I don’t have anything against homosexuals. I have friends who are gay. In reality I’d like to ask for the apologies of all those who have been offended by this.”
Escobar’s actions will cost him roughly $92,500 in salary, which will be donated to the Toronto-based “You Can Play Organization” and the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD).
Asked to explain the meaning of the words, Escobar stated that it’s a phrase often uttered by Latin players.
“It’s not something that’s meant to be offensive,” Escobar said. “That’s a word without meaning.”
“This is not the first time I’ve written something underneath my eyes. It’s just a common joke. This was not directed at anyone in particular.”
Besides his interpreters, Escobar was flanked by manager John Farrell and general manager Alex Anthopoulos. Farrell said he thought nothing of Saturday because Escobar often has written messages in his eye black.
“If you look back, there’s been a number of occasions where Yunel has written a message on the eye black patch that he does wear and because it’s frequently done on his part, no one paid attention to it,” Farrell said. “The size of the lettering is so small that to view it you have to be right looking in his eyes and mostly the number of times he’s written something under his eyes, I didn’t pay attention to it.”
Escobar also said he agrees with the suspension and that he was embarrassed by the events.
“We’re not happy and Yunel is going to be now become an advocate and he’s going to work with those groups,” Anthopoulos said. “I think the biggest thing is having talked with the comissioner’s office, the players association and even those groups, the importance for them is so not much the fine, the penalty, the suspension, it was more the education because suspending someone doesn’t fix the problem.”
Follow Yankees beat writer Larry Fleisher on Twitter @LarryFleisher.