Yunel Escobar

Yunel Escobar is a 30-year-old, Cuban-born, shortstop for the Toronto Blue Jays. He is also a man chastened – and poorer – after putting an inane message in the black tape some athletes use below his eyes. On Sept. 15, he put the words “Tu Ere Maricon” on the black tape, which translates to “You are a faggot.” It wasn’t an issue until a fan saw the message at home after returning from the game and he looked at picture he had taken. Season ticket holder James Greenhalgh said such “slurs” are “not acceptable in 2012 … and we need to get rid of them.” Despite the fact no one else noticed the message – not the media, his team-mates, management, or other fans – the Blue Jays instantly over-reacted to Greenhalgh’s message. Jays General manager Alex Anthopoulos told a radio station his first reaction to the news was to cut Escobar from the team or trade him. Anthopoulos, whose team is last in the division — ended up suspending Escobar for three games, forcing him to donate his lost salary – more than $87,000 – to two pro-homosexual organizations (You Can Play, which encourages homosexual athletes and the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation), and requiring the shortstop to promote the two organizations.

The problem is that Escobar had no idea that what he said was offensive. The Cuban Spanish usage typically has more to do with effeminate males than homosexuality, and Spanish players have admitted that they throw the term around with each other in a joking and non-offensive way in the clubhouse and on the field.

Escobar does not speak English and said in a press conference the phrase was “not something meant to be offensive.” He explained, “for us, it doesn’t have the significance in the way that’s being interpreted.” Miami Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen came to Escobar’s defense, saying it is a meaningless phrase thrown around by Spanish-speaking players, and that it is so inoffensive that he and his children use it around the house. Still, Escobar grovelingly apologized numerous times in the press conference.

The Jays, Escobar’s team-mates, Major League Baseball, and the Major League Baseball Player`s Association (union) all said the under-eye message was “unacceptable” and that Escobar needed to be “educated” that such language cannot be tolerated in society. Fine, but why the heavy-handedness? Why the huge fine? Why the indoctrination? Why not just sit Escobar down and explain why it was unacceptable and move on?

It is obvious that for the Blue Jays, it is not enough that Escobar avoid repeating the mistake of (inadvertently) putting an offensive message on his face. The Jays are going to make Escobar a poster-child for so-called homophobia, and it may or may not have anything to do with quieting a noisy special interest group.

In May 2011, Rogers Sportsnet, the all-sports channel, fired anchor Damian Goddard after he tweeted (put a note on a social media website) support for an NHL player agent who was under fire for opposing same-sex “marriage.” Goddard did so on his own time and on his own computer. Still, Rogers was not going to countenance the politically incorrect view and immediately fired him. Rogers also owns the Blue Jays.

What is the interest for Rogers to take a stridently pro-gay stance? There is a large segment of the population (mostly Christian) that does not agree with homosexual actions, and the division within society is still large enough that suspending players and firing journalists for dissenting from the politically correct view of homosexuality should be controversial. Instead, there was nearly uniform criticism of both Escobar’s and Goddard’s actions in the media and among colleagues.

In the name of tolerance, Rogers demonstrates extreme intolerance and their pro-gay stance amounts to bullying. Consumers of Rogers products (cable, internet, phone) might want to consider whether they are willing to tolerate such intolerance when they look at their next bill and think about whether the company deserves their business. Just a thought.