Blue Jays Player played with homophobic slur written on face during game

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Mr.Tea
Blue Jays Player played with homophobic slur written on face during game

Any other Blue Jays fans here?

It's been a terrible season and things just got worse.

You know how players wear black stripes under their eyes to reduce glare from the sun? Some players like to include messages on their eye black. Tim Tebow famously wrote Bible verses on his. Well, Jays shortstop Yunel Escobar played Saturday's game with some Spanish writing on his which turned out to translate as "You are a faggot". (Though some say the word "Maricon" could also translate as "pussy", which isn't exactly much better).

What posessed him to do this is anyone's guess. There's an investigation by Major League Baseball and a press conference by the Jays this afternoon. I suppose it's possible that he didn't do it deliberately and someone else put that on his face. It's been pointed out that the phrase contained a basic grammatical error which Escobar, having been raised in Cuba and speaking Spanish as his first language, would be unlikely to make. There are quite a few Spanish speaking players on the team so I don't know how nobody caught this.

Anyway, there's talk of a hefty fine, suspension and maybe even releasing him from the team.

http://www.thestar.com/blogs/article/1258214--smith-blue-jays-yunel-escobar-deserves-hefty-suspension-over-homophobic-slur

Ken Burch

As a short-term measure, I'd like to call on the Jays and all other MLB teams to play with rainbow stripes on part of their eye-black for the rest of the season.

Ken Burch

Heard about that.  They do need to figure out why this happened.  I'm wondering if somebody else on the Jays "punk'd" Escobar.  The timing of this is weird...why late in the season, when the team has been out of contention for weeks...and if he did this himself, who would it have been aimed at?  It's fairly hard to read messages on eye-black unless you're standing within a couple of feet of the person wearing them.  Plus, you'd have to have someone else paint the message on your eye-black FOR you...otherwise, you end up trying to write backwards in a  mirror.  It's possible that some other player, obviously an Anglo who'd done badly in high-school Spanish, was trying to have Escobar's eye-black say that HE was gay(and got mixed-up on the verb tenses)-a lot of major leagures aren't that far out of high school, and still drip with the ugly locker room macho of those years.

An unacceptable message...but they need to be sure who, exactly, is to blame for it.

Mr.Tea

Escobar has apologized. The team has suspended him for 3 games without pay and the salary they would have paid him for those games is being donated to You Can Play, an organization that supports LGBT people in sports.

Ken Burch

Has he said WHY he had that message on his eye-black?

Catchfire Catchfire's picture

"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."

From CBC story

Ha ha. It was just a joke. I'm glad we cleared that up. Sorry you were offended! Cool gay people thought it was funny, tho. #justsayin

RevolutionPlease RevolutionPlease's picture

I think it's a great avenue for education and not pitchforks as Patrick Burke of You Can Play quite eloquently stated. There's still a long way to go. Kobe Bryant got off with no suspension and he speaks english and comes from the western culture, not Cuba. It's a bit disturbing some of the HATE being spewed at him and it almost seems kind of racist.

Catchfire Catchfire's picture

I completely agree with you, RP. And I have plenty of respect for the hard path Patrick Burke has chosen -- but I feel like the "teaching moment" could have been better executed. Like, calling in people to the Jays who could say: "Actually, Yunel, the apology you've drafted and statement you've prepared doesn't address the reasons why so many people find this offensive. "No offense meant" is not an adequate response. It's a David Brent response." Etc.

RevolutionPlease RevolutionPlease's picture

Oh, no doubt Cf. That was a PR disaster. I have a feeling, like the incident itself, something may have been lost in translation. He is scheduled to meet with Patrick when they get back to Toronto next week. I groaned really hard when the translator said, "I have gay friends". But the all sports radio were calling for him to be tarred and feathered when they've never really raised a peep about Kobe or Roger McDowell's incident last year. Likely because it's closer to home but that doesn't excuse reverse bigotry. Maybe, I'm naive but I don't expect some guy from Cuba who only got off the island due to his baseball immersion (you don't "walk" off the island), to have as nuanced a position as those from 1st world countries.

 

I follow the Blue Jays quite closely, and at the risk of being racist myself, Yunel is ... "aloof"?

 

If anything, sometimes these may be watershed moments for the issue to get the attention it deserves, rather than behind locker room doors. There's been some very small progress in this regard.

 

http://deadspin.com/5941348/they-wont-magically-turn-you-into-a-lustful-cockmonster-chris-kluwe-explains-gay-marriage-to-the-politician-who-is-offended-by-an-nfl-player-supporting-it

 

Quote:

Baltimore Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo has spoken out in favor of a Maryland ballot initiative that would legalize gay marriage. Yahoo has published a letter that Maryland state delegate Emmett C. Burns Jr. wrote last week to Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti, urging him to "inhibit such expressions from your employee." This is Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe's response to Burns.

 

...snip

 

3. This is more a personal quibble of mine, but why do you hate freedom? Why do you hate the fact that other people want a chance to live their lives and be happy, even though they may believe in something different than you, or act different than you? How does gay marriage, in any way shape or form, affect your life? If gay marriage becomes legal, are you worried that all of a sudden you'll start thinking about penis? "Oh shit. Gay marriage just passed. Gotta get me some of that hot dong action!" Will all of your friends suddenly turn gay and refuse to come to your Sunday Ticket grill-outs? (Unlikely, since gay people enjoy watching football too.)

I can assure you that gay people getting married will have zero effect on your life. They won't come into your house and steal your children. They won't magically turn you into a lustful cockmonster.

RevolutionPlease RevolutionPlease's picture

Why is Mr. Burns not raked over the coals? I find it strange how folks look to athletes for moral perfection but ignore the rock in their own eye.

Unionist

RevolutionPlease wrote:

Why is Mr. Burns not raked over the coals? I find it strange how folks look to athletes for moral perfection but ignore the rock in their own eye.

Word.

 

onlinediscountanvils

[url=http://www.reworkit.net/2012/09/18/yunel-escobar-homophobia-and-major-le... Escobar, homophobia, and Major League Baseball[/url]

Quote:
On Toronto Sports radio the Fan 590, Bob McCown suggested that he should be released immediately and that ‘there is only one guilty party in all of this: Yunel Escobar.’

I fear that is exactly how it will play out: Escobar did something very wrong, he got reprimanded and now we can all feel good about our tolerant ways and leave it at that.  But, this incident goes well beyond Yunel Escobar and is reflective of Major League Baseball’s own troubled past and present in dealing with GLBTQ issues. It should be used an opportunity to take a critical look into baseball’s moral authority to wring Escobar’s hands, how baseball could use this moment to start thinking about it’s own role in homophobia and what that re-thinking could mean for GLBTQ players in the future.

Quote:
End the ‘kiss-cam’ please

In many Major League cities (including Toronto), they have the ‘kiss-cam’ where (presumably) straight couples are pushed to kiss each other on the big screen.  We’ve all seen it.  The crowd cheers as the couples (or, as is likely in some cases, friends) are pressured to kiss for the crowd.  In some cities, they have taken this practice a step further. As a gag to make people squeamish at the end of the kiss-cam sequence, they show two men and we are all supposed to laugh it up.  This is clearly not a safe space for other same-sex couples in the crowd who are being directly ridiculed by what they see.  It didn’t go unnoticed by Oakland A’s pitcher Brandon McCarthy (1) who saw this blatant discrimination as ‘sh*tty comedy’ and ‘offensive homophobia’ – calling for an end to the trend. (read all his [url=http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/20/brandon-mccarthy-oakland-as-kis...‘kiss-cam’ tweets here[/url])

Mr.Tea

That's a great article, onlinediscoutanvils.

Here's another quote from the article: "If you add up all those who have come out during their playing days in Major League Baseball’s 150 year history, you reach a grand total of one."

Now, one way to interpret the lack of openly gay players in baseball (or hockey, football, basketball, etc.) is that there really ARE several gay players but they're too afraid to come out.

I'd actually suggest an alternative which is that there really are NOT any significant number of gay players in professional sports.

If you're a professional athlete, it means you've been in sports a long time, from playing little league as a kid to playing in high school, college, the minors, etc. The ones who do well through all those steps are the ones who eventually reach the big leagues. I'd suggest that it's THAT experience that probably filters out the gay players who have to deal with slurs and bigotry way back when they're kids and usually decide early on that sports isn't a welcoming culture for them. And it's not just in Latin America, where Escobar comes from. I grew up (not that long ago) playing sports in Canada (soccer, hockey, basketball) and doubt there was a single game where someone wasn't called a "faggot".

This is why I like them giving Escobar's lost salary to You Can Play. The challenge is changing the culture and reaching people when they're young. You may never the attitudes of the current pro athletes but the kids playing on a little league baseball right now or high school basketball or pee wee hockey or whatever are the ones who are going to be the future pro athletes and you need to start with them to build a more welcoming culture.

Mr.Tea

"

According to Escobar’s teammates, however, it is used widely among Spanish-speaking baseball players.

“It’s just a word we use on an everyday basis,” said Omar Vizquel, the Jays’ 45-year-old infielder who was born in Venezuela and has been in the majors since 1989. “I don’t know why people are taking this so hard and so out of place or out of proportion.”

Miami Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen, who himself was suspended in 2006 for using a gay slur in a profanity-laced tirade against a Chicago newspaper columnist, chimed in on Tuesday with sympathy for Escobar.

“I think this kid did it without the intention to hurt anybody,” he told reporters. “I think he did it just for fun. But in our country we do that. We’re not in our country.”

Guillen, also Venezuelan, went on to say that in his house he says the word “every 20 seconds.”

“For us it’s like ‘What’s up bro? What’s up dude?’ It’s how you say it and to who you say it. But that’s our country. We have to respect this country. Sometimes for us it’s funny, for other people it’s not.”

Jose Bautista, the Jays’ Dominican-born right fielder and friend to Escobar, told Sporstnet’s Shi Davidi via text message on Tuesday that it would be an “impossible task” to explain the cultural context of the word.

Rodriguez conceded the word is used regularly by men in the Hispanic Caribbean, particularly among athletes. “The macho culture is dominant and that kind of joke is common among men, but it’s always offensive.”

“(Latin players) always play around with that word,” said the Jays’ Dominican first baseman Edwin Encarnacion. “But we don’t use it to offend anyone.”

Encarnacion said they use the word, but “not the meaning of the word,” echoing Escobar, who said in Tuesday’s news conference that “maricon” was “a word without meaning.”

That disconnect between language and meaning is what makes casual homophobia so pervasive, said leafsPatrick Burke, president of You Can Play, an advocacy group for gay athletes and one of the beneficiaries of Escobar’s lost salary."

http://www.thestar.com/sports/baseball/mlb/article/1259555--yunel-escobar-slur-debate-continues

Unionist

I asked some Latin American immigrant workers about the use of this word. One is from Guatemala, the other from Colombia. Both said that in Venezuela and Colombia, the word is indeed used "every 20 seconds" (see above story) among young male friends, meaning something like dude or bro - no other connotations. Virtually everywhere else, it would definitely not be used in this casual way, and would be taken in its most offensive flavour. I asked about Argentina - they didn't know - and they weren't sure about Cuba.

So much for my field work.

There's little evidence that Escobar intended to make some homophobic declaration. But I think the point about "casual homophobia" resonates very loudly - as in the casual use of vocabulary which denigrates people of colour or Jews or Romani or... women. "Intent" matters, but only when it comes to the severity of the sanction. By the same token, to confine the discussion to the use of a word, and punishing its use, may not deal with the deeper phenomenon of how the "other" is treated. If it's true (and I don't doubt it for an instant) that other team members use the word in their non-public discussions all the time, why should they not be investigated and sanctioned as well?

And then there's the Pope, who parades around in his finery and preaches misogyny and homophobia... And respectable politicians and leaders of culture and the economy... All with impunity. There's something wrong here.

 

RevolutionPlease RevolutionPlease's picture

Yep, something definitely wrong. Bob McCown, mentioned upthread was largely the subject of my ire for inflaming a bad situation. My head almost exploded when he stated Yunel needed to man up and then in another segment referring to himself and his co-host as whores.

 

It boggles the mind the disconnect.

onlinediscountanvils

RevolutionPlease wrote:
Why is Mr. Burns not raked over the coals?

 

Assuming you're only talking about a metaphoric raking over the coals, I'd say that he was. Not only was Burns condemned, while LGBTQ-positive players like Kluwe, Ayanbadejo, and Fujita were praised by the usual liberal commentators - there was largely the same reaction within the sports media. The NFL's own website posted several pieces that were scornful of Burns, and favourable towards Ayandadejo and Kluwe. The NFL Network ran commentary in support of Ayanbadejo while favourably anticipating the day when an active NFL player comes out. On the fan board that I belong to, Burns was roundly mocked, with the lone voice of dissent coming from a right-wing poster who weakly argued that the issue was not a relevant discussion to be had on a message board devoted to 'our team'. And former player and current NFLPA president, Domonique Foxworth, had this to say:

Domonique Foxworth wrote:
I don’t know if I can come up with a strong enough word, but his request was asinine. It was frustrating and disappointing, but I was encouraged by the support that Brendon received from the football world, from Chris Kluwe from the Vikings -- his letter on Deadspin may not be appropriate for the newspaper, but it was nice to see that support -- and the support that the Ravens have given him was great. Even the fans were really supportive of him. [...] I guess the really surprising thing was that once I heard about it, I looked up who Emmitt Burns was. Just to see a 70-something-year-old man who grew up in Jackson, Mississippi, who shares a first name with Emmitt Till, who was essentially a martyr for freedom of speech and freedom of expression… For someone who has had that unique life experience to encourage silencing an individual, you would assume it would go against what everyone someone like that would believe. I can’t imagine that a black person growing up in Mississippi would have ever been in favor of quieting someone’s free speech. It’s odd. [...] A player should do what they’re comfortable with. I don’t think football players are different than any other human beings, with the exception of having a large platform. I think that’s all the reason to speak out.

torontosask

I just noticed that part of an article I wrote was posted here (Yunel Escobar, homophobia, and Major League Baseball).  Glad you liked it!

I've been closely following the politics of baseball for a while and it all just seemed a bit much the way everyone piled on Escobar without looking inwardly, given the sporting world's own homophobia.  It was like they had been the world's greatest LGBTQ allies for years.  It's good and progress that Escobar has been challenged and reprimanded, but the self-righteousness has been a bit much.

And ya, RevolutionPlease, I agree that McCown has been the worst. I hadn't heard the 'man up' and 'whores' comments, but, obviously, I've heard that kind of language before. Yesterday, McCown said that it's well known that this stuff is said in the clubhouse, but just make sure you keep it in the clubhouse. How can you say that and still be so sanctimonious about Escobar?

 

Catchfire Catchfire's picture

Hi torontosask, welcome to babble. Great article, and thanks for your further thoughts here.

Boze

Am I the only one who thinks there should have been no investigation, no punishment, and no interest in this story? People should be free to write what they want on their face - no matter how vile - whether they are at home, at work, at school or on television.

Mr.Tea

Boze wrote:

Am I the only one who thinks there should have been no investigation, no punishment, and no interest in this story? People should be free to write what they want on their face - no matter how vile - whether they are at home, at work, at school or on television.

He's an employee of the Blue Jays (and a very well paid employee at that). He represents the team. He wears their uniform. Of course they can tell him not to write messages like that, especially when he's at work, since playing a baseball game is him doing his job in his workplace. If a Tim Horton's cashier wrote an offensive message on their uniform and wore it to work, I'm sure they'd be instantly fired.

Boze

Yes, they certainly would, but socialists should oppose such a firing. The Blue Jays, and also Tim Horton's, are capitalist enterprises that view their labour force as exploitable commodities. Call me a fruitcake but hasn't socialism always been about workers being their own bosses and having control over their own work? Surely that extends to what you wear while you work.

Nowadays I guess socialists only concern themselves with material aspects of social justice and view concerns over actual freedom as bourgeois in nature or perhaps quaint.

onlinediscountanvils

Boze wrote:
Nowadays I guess socialists only concern themselves with material aspects of social justice and view concerns over actual freedom as bourgeois in nature or perhaps quaint.

 

Homophobia is antithetical to "actual freedom".