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Yunel Escobar suspended three games

Jays shortstop to miss Yankees series without pay after on-field incident Saturday
09/18/2012 5:14 PM ET
By Lou DiPietro
The Toronto Blue Jays have suspended shortstop Yunel Escobar for three games without pay for what the team called “his decision to display an unacceptable message while participating in a Major League game."

As a result, Escobar will miss the team’s three-game set with the Yankees at Yankee Stadium, sitting out Wednesday’s doubleheader and Thursday’s series finale. In addition, the shortstop will undergo sensitivity training, and his lost salary will be donated to You Can Play – an organization dedicated to eliminating homophobia in sports that was founded by Patrick Burke, the son of Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke – and the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation.

The suspension stems from an incident during Toronto’s game last Saturday, when Escobar took the field with his eye black strips displaying a homophobic slur written in Spanish. The team held a press conference Tuesday afternoon at Yankee Stadium – prior to what had been the scheduled start of the three-game set – to announce the ban, which was decided upon after Escobar met with team and MLB brass and reps from 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 interpreter Torey Lovullo, who is also the Blue Jays’ first base coach. "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 admitted that he wrote the words on his eye black shortly before game time on Saturday, and that it was meant as a joke between players.

“It wasn't the first time I wrote something on the stickers. It wasn't directed at anybody specifically,” Escobar said. “It went from a joke to a big problem and I never thought it was gonna become something bad. I agree with the suspension and I don't have a problem with it."

The shortstop was backed at the press conference by Blue Jays manager John Farrell and GM Alex Anthopolous, who cited cultural differences (Escobar is a native Cuban) in explaining why Escobar may have lacked the understanding that what he did was offensive.

In a statement, MLB commissioner Bud Selig said that the league supports the decision to suspend Escobar, and he also expressed hope that it will help Escobar and others going forward.

“Major League Baseball supports (Tuesday’s) decision by the Blue Jays to discipline Yunel Escobar and commends them for handling this situation appropriately and promptly,” Selig said. “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. 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."

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