I'm positive that Yunel Escobar didn't think he was offending anyone with his eye black. And that's exactly the problem. (Kim Klement-US PRESSWIRE)

Yunel Escobar and Equality In Baseball

This article contains some language that might be – that should be – seen as offensive.

This article has very little to do with the Milwaukee Brewers. This has to do with a lot more pressing issues than the Wild Card Race. This has something to do with more than just baseball.

Yunel Escobar, as has been reported quite widely, was spotted over the weekend with eye black that contained on it a homophobic slur written in Spanish. The message was “Tu Ere Maricon”, translated loosely to “You are a faggot,” or a similar derivative in Spanish slang depending on the source.

Word came down today that the offending eye black has cost Escobar three games. In my mind – and hopefully the minds of others – a small price to pay.

The real issue is that the blame shouldn’t fall squarely on Escobar’s shoulders – there is an entire institution at fault here.

I was going to be careful about my word choice here, but doing so would be doing a disservice to the larger issue. I don’t care what your views on homosexuality are. I don’t care what religious or sociological background comes in to play here. I don’t care that “you can hear worse in schools” or “they say worse stuff in the locker room”. Why does that make it right? How is that even an argument? This is flat-out wrong.

Everyone knows what the term ‘faggot’ is referring to here. Everyone has heard it – most of us have even said it – and we knew it was wrong and disparaging the entire time. We know that it’s alienating and hurtful to a group of people that, whether you choose to believe it or not, are struggling to gain acceptance and normalcy every day. You can’t tell me that no other Toronto Blue Jays player knew what Yunel Escobar had written on his eye black, or didn’t see it ‘until it was too late.’ How did he get out of the clubhouse like that?

It was – it had to be – a series of blind eyes turned towards Escobar for the sake of an inside joke or out of pure ignorance to what was going on. Escobar got off light, but that’s nothing compared with the complicit ignorance of the rest of the players involved.

It’s not a stretch to assume that someone on that field might be closeted, or that at least one of the players had gay friends or family members. It doesn’t take much to tell Yunel to take off the eye black – to remind him that people of all walks of life are baseball fans, to remind him that isn’t something that professional athletes should do.

Hell, this isn’t something that decent human beings should do.

I understand that there is a right to free speech in this country but there is no need for that speech to defame an entire part of society for no reason other than pure prejudice. A grown man and public figure ought to be able to realize that. And the Toronto Blue Jays and Major League Baseball had a great chance to bring that message home, and instead they quickly got rid of the issue.

There was a two-day ‘investigation’, a short press conference, and a three-game suspension. Time to move on, right? Tell that to the kids around the country right now struggling with their sexuality. Even a few of them might just grow up to be professional baseball players. Is this the league they want to be a part of?

Baseball, since closing the book on the era of racial segregation, has done an admirable job at honoring the diversity of the National Pastime from a racial standpoint as well as highlighting how important inclusion has been to the game. Do we really have to wait decades before we can have a frank discussion about sexuality in sports? Do we really need to brush aside incidents like this until we have an openly gay baseball player? Could it be that maybe, just maybe, we don’t have openly gay baseball players because baseball is in large part admitting they’re not ready for that discussion?

I think that this incident proves it. The Toronto Blue Jays and Yunel Escobar said all the right things and are giving money to all the right places in the aftermath of the eye black incident. That doesn’t mean they are doing the right thing.

The right thing is what the San Fransisco Forty-Niners did – coming out in support of the LGBT community without PR pressure. The same goes for the leagues of NHL players who contributed to the “It Gets Better” campaign, as well.

The right thing to do is to stand in defiance of incidents like this and make sure you send a message that things like this won’t happen again – a three game suspension does NOT send that message.

The right thing to do is to lead the way to make sure that everyone – and I mean EVERYONE – has a chance to enjoy and participate in America’s Pastime without the fear of discrimination, bigotry, and exclusion.

In my opinion, and hopefully the opinions of others, Major League Baseball swung and missed on this one.

Tags: Toronto Blue Jays Yunel Escobar

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