Hero of the Week Award: September 21, the Toronto Blue Jays

21 Sep

Hero of the Week

Perhaps the homophobic tide is slowly turning in professional athletics. Just weeks after two NFL players made headlines with their outspoken support of marriage equality, a major league baseball team handled the homophobic actions of a player in a clear and decisive way.

Toronto Blue Jays shortstop Yunel Escobar is known for writing slogans in white paint on his eyeblack. According to teammates and news items, most of the writing is “inspirational or motivational.” Last Saturday, however, the writing was neither of these things. The eyeblack (which comes in adhesive strips making it easy to augment with words or images before applying) he wore on the field said “Tu eres maricon,” Spanish for “you are a faggot.”

The outcry was swift. Escobar held a press conference with a lame “everybody says it in the locker room” defense; he then moved on to a “it doesn’t really mean anything,” sounding like a high school kid caught slinging the word “gay” indiscriminately. He also played the “lots of my friends are gay” card although he could only name his decorator and hair stylist. fortunately, Blue Jays management didn’t buy his nonpology. After consulting with the Baseball Commissioner, they handed  Escobar a pretty stiff penalty.

The player was suspended for three games and his salary for those games (equalling an impressive $83,000 and change) will go to two charities. The bulk will go to the relatively new You Can Play project, whose mission is:

You Can Play is dedicated to ensuring equality, respect and safety for all athletes, without regard to sexual orientation. […] You Can Play seeks to challenge the culture of locker rooms and spectator areas by focusing only on an athlete’s skills, work ethic and competitive spirit.

What a perfect choice! The balance of the penalty will go to GLAAD, another fitting selection. Blue Jays General Manager Alex Anthopoulos described the decision clearly.

Taking away from all of this, there is a problem not only in sports but a problem in society, and how do we move forward to help with that problem? If at the end of the day the Blue Jays become a vehicle and Yunel becomes a vehicle to improve things and make them better, as unfortunate as this is, hopefully some good will come from it.

The management team also acknowledged their responsibility, noting that eyeblack writing is so common that it is often overlooked. They hope that this action will make players think twice and are instructing coaches to pay closer attention in the future. Nicely done, Blue Jays, and thank you.


7 Responses to “Hero of the Week Award: September 21, the Toronto Blue Jays”

  1. prideinmadness September 21, 2012 at 7:45 am #

    Maybe more people will go to their games now 😛

    I love that men’s sports are taking on the issue of homophobia!

    • Michael Hulshof-Schmidt September 21, 2012 at 7:49 am #

      Yes, I am amazed and impressed at how sports in general is addressing homophobia.

  2. Robert Hulshof-Schmidt September 21, 2012 at 7:57 am #

    It’s nice to see how seriously the team is taking this. Manager John Farrell discussed it in this detailed interview with the National Post. He’s bringing in diversity training for the whole team and dedicating additional one-on-one time to Escobar.

  3. Jennifer Carey September 21, 2012 at 8:34 am #

    I really think that the outspoken voices in sports are highlighting the changing attitudes amongst most American concerning the LGBT community. It reminds me of athletes in the 50s and 60s speaking out against racial segregation in sports and Civil Rights.

  4. Christine Noble September 21, 2012 at 10:53 am #

    Outstanding! If we can get more teams and players doing this sort of thing, it is only a matter of time before we start seeing some meaningful change.

    • Michael Hulshof-Schmidt September 21, 2012 at 10:54 am #

      I love all the movement forward in the sports arena toward civil rights for the LGBT community in stark contrast to Romney and Ryan taking us backwards.

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