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Yunel Escobar, tu ere idiota

Maclaine Chadwick | Sports Editor

THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN sports and homophobia seems to be taking two steps forward, one step back.

On Sept. 15, Yunel Escobar—Cuban shortstop for the Toronto Blue Jays—emerged from the clubhouse with a phrase written into his eye black. This is something that many athletes do, but normally the messages say nothing more than the generic “Go team!” or maybe “John 3:16” in the case of Tim Tebow of the New York Jets.

Escobar decided—apparently 10 minutes prior to the game—to write “Tu ere maricón” into his eye black, a phrase that roughly translates from Spanish to “You’re a fa***t.”

What I find even more troublesome than the words themselves are the excuses that Escobar gave for his actions. In a press conference he said that the phrase, which was not directed at anyone in particular, was “something that’s been said around other Latinos” and that he has nothing against the LGBT community—proven by the fact that “the person who cuts [his] hair is gay.”

While it is true that the word is used commonly and almost playfully in Latin culture, I have a hard time accepting this as an explanation for Escobar’s actions. Dragging a whole population into the debate and assuming that all members of the population use this expression lightly wasn’t a smooth move in my opinion.

One more thing that surprised me is that nobody pointed out the error in Escobar’s judgment before the game. If it is true that this phrase is used commonly among Latino players, surely someone on the team might have considered it would be offensive in another language. Why didn’t anyone speak up?

This becomes even more serious when we take into consideration that this exact term has been an issue in the past.

Let’s step back to Madison Square Garden, 1962. Boxer Benny Paret calls his closeted opponent, Emile Griffith, “maricón” and dies 10 days later after a coma-inducing beating in the ring from Griffith. Yes, things were different in the sixties (admitting to homosexuality was career suicide for athletes), but we can’t dismiss the fact that what Paret said offended Griffith to the point of provoking a beating far past the acceptable level of a boxing match.

Fast-forward 50 years to Escobar. It’s fairly safe to say he won’t be beaten for his actions, but he was suspended for three games, and the $82,000 he would have made during those games will be donated to You Can Play—an organization that advocates for gay athletes.

While some critics call this a slap on the wrist in the grand scheme of Escobar’s salary, we have to remember his reputation will likely be permanently affected as well. His explanation—though weak and still borderline offensive—does correlate with the fact that it was a poorly thought out decision, made on a whim. And after the sensitivity training Blue Jays organizers are sending him to, hopefully this is the last time we will see anything like this come from Escobar.