Toronto Blue Jays shortstop Yunel Escobar is the focus of an investigation by Major League Baseball after displaying a homophobic slur on the eye-black stickers that he wore while playing against the Boston Red Sox on September 15 at Rogers Centre.
Photographs of the 29-year-old taken by Getty Images during the game, as well as images captured by a Blue Jays fan seated near the home dugout, make it clear that Escobar's eye-black bore the message "TU ERE MARICON." The phrase (with a slight spelling fix) is most commonly translated from Spanish to English as "You are a faggot," according to the Toronto Star. The Globe And Mail notes that "Other possible translations of the phrase lack the homophobic connotation, but are nevertheless offensive."
Major League Baseball spokesman Pat Courtney confirmed that the commissioner's office is investigating the situation, as first reported by Sportsnet 590 in Canada and Jerry Crasnick. The Blue Jays also released a statement.
The Toronto Blue Jays do not support discrimination of any kind nor condone the message displayed by Yunel Escobar during Saturday’s game. The club takes this situation seriously and is investigating the matter.
Alex Anthopoulos, Sr. VP Baseball Operations and General Manager will be available to the media tomorrow afternoon at Yankee Stadium and we expect him to be joined by Yunel Escobar, Manager John Farrell and Coach Luis Rivera. Details and location for the media availability will be announced tomorrow.
Although the message was visible in photographs taken by Tom Szczerbowski for Getty Images, it was a Blue Jays fan who brought attention to it by sharing his own close-up photo of Escobar's eye-black on Flickr. He posted a message along with the photo about his decision to share the image, writing "I have been conflicted about posting this picture since last night."
"I have a privileged seat near the Blue Jays dugout and allows me a close up of some pretty awesome moments," Flickr user James G. wrote. "This one, however, is really disappointing."
In his post and while discussing the photo with a fellow Blue Jays on Twitter, James suggested that Escobar could have been the victim of an insensitive prank. Is it possible that Escobar was unaware of the message he was wearing on his face throughout the game?
After allowing for the possibility that "the message had less to do with hate than with lunkheaded nitwittery," Blue Jays blog Tao Of Stieb expressed the hope that "the Blue Jays take the opportunity to demonstrate their character in the face of these events and show their willingness to help contribute to the change that can make for a more compassionate and tolerant world."
As The Daily News pointed out, the Blue Jays game on Saturday was played at Rogers Centre, where there is a roof, making any use of eye-black needless. Further mitigating the need for the eye black are the sunglasses perched on the brim of Escobar's hat in the photograph above.
UPDATE 9/18 3:34 pm: The Blue Jay have announced disciplinary action against Escobar over the eye-black message.
The Blue Jays also announced that Escobar's lost pay will be donated by the club.