|Escobar and the offending stickers|
This afternoon, the Blue Jays held a press conference in New York (where the team is preparing to take on the Yankees) before which they announced that Escobar had been suspended for three games (which I think is about four games too light), with the approval of Major League Baseball. Furthermore, the salary he is forfeiting will be split between the You Can Play Project and the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation and Escobar will also "participate in an outreach program on sexual orientation and a sensitivity training program in accordance with the Toronto Blue Jays and Major League Baseball". Attending the press conference were Escobar, GM Alex Anthopolous, manager John Farrell, coach Luis Rivera (to translate questions to Escobar, who speaks little to no English) and another man who went unidentified, who translated Escobar's words to the rest of us. During this conference, Escobar repeatedly stated that he meant "no offense" by the words and that he has "many gay friends" including, somewhat hilariously, his hairdresser and the "man who decorated my house". The young shortstop tried his best to show that he was embarrassed, but mainly -- to my eyes -- he just looked confused as to why this had caused such a big storm of outrage.
|Alomar and the loogie|
|Escobar, different day, different words|
Escobar made a big mistake. He's paying for it and owning up to it. I think it won't happen again. But he shouldn't be taking this blame alone - and, if you listen to the presser, he isn't. Farrell is answering the bell here, too. And that's how it should be, so I'll give him credit for that. And I'll go one step further: it is going to be years before this sort of offhanded remark is eliminated from dressing rooms, if it ever happens at all. Escobar wearing this phrase onto a ball field is actually a Godsend to the advancement of ideals like You Can Play, in my opinion.
Also, today Escobar spoke of all of his friends and people he knows who are gay. But he called them "gay". In Spanish. Which indicates to me he may have meant the word as "sissy", which is what I have read he could have meant. I am not letting him off the hook, but let's deal with this incident, educate, and move on. Escobar should not be sitting here explaining the entire Latin baseball culture all by himself.
And shame on all of the people who spent today "piling on" this man on Twitter and elsewhere. Escobar made a mistake, exacerbated by a lack of education and cultural awareness of the society in which he makes his living. And let's be fair: the cultural awareness of which I speak is not exactly old hat in North America, either. We're setting the bar higher now -- finally -- but we can't expect everyone to automatically catch up. That's where the education comes in. But the mistake didn't cost anyone their life; it was, in fact, what Patrick Burke elegantly refers to as "casual homophobia", meaning that these sort of words are uttered out of ignorance rather than maliciousness.
"We have a disconnect right now between players' feelings towards [the] LGBT community and players' language. Lots of work to be done to rectify it. Same as when we explain to kids why you shouldn't say 'That's so gay.' They see it as just a word, and need the bigger meaning explained."Does this language need to go? Yes, of course it does. Does it translate perfectly from one global language to another? Ah, there is the big problem in an incident such as this.
Please don't get the impression that I am defending what Escobar did. Far from it. And you can probably tell from previous posts that I am an avid supporter of Gay Rights; hell, I am an avid supporter of Human Rights in general. I simply think that everyone deserves a chance to learn from their mistakes and Yunel Escobar is no different in that regard. I also think that he should not be bearing the full weight of this error in judgment alone. He wore those words on his face for four hours and not one person who saw him thought it might be a good idea to suggest he remove them. Not one. And today, when Escobar faced the music, he was left to dangle for much of the press conference, attempting to answer the same few questions over and over again. Nobody stepped in to help him; in fact, Anthopolous (for whom I have a great deal of respect) and Farrell (for whom I do not) did not ever speak unless directly addressed by a reporter. I found that absolutely shameful, to be blunt.
I will leave the last word on this subject to the aforementioned Patrick Burke of the You Can Play Project: