Toronto Blue Jays shortstop Yunel Escobar has been suspended for three games after a photo emerged from Saturday's game showing him with a Spanish homophobic slur in his eye black, the substance ballplayers put below their eyes to reduce the sun's glare.
Escobar acknowledged being the author of the message, but was reticent about the underlying meaning of the words.
"It was not something I intended to be offensive," Escobar said through a translator. "It's something I just put on the sticker on my face."
The team said it met with Escobar, Major League Baseball officials and the MLB Players Association and decided the shortstop will be suspended without pay. The salary he forfeits will be donated to the groups You Can Play and the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD.)
"The Blue Jays want to reaffirm that discrimination of any kind will not be tolerated," the team said in a statement announcing the suspension.
Escobar said his actions were not intentional or directed at anyone in particular and he wanted to apologize to anyone he offended.
"I don't have anything against homosexuals," Escobar said. "I have friends who are gay. I'd like to ask for the apology of all those who have been offended by this."
Maria Cristina Cuervo, a Spanish professor at the University of Toronto, told Toronto Star columnist Cathal Kelly on Tuesday that the word "is derogatory, but it's not necessarily homophobic," and in some Spanish-speaking countries such as Argentina, it is more of a teasing insult.
Escobar did not say specifically what he thought the words on his eye black meant, but added the phrase was something that's "been said amongst Latinos."
"It's not something meant to be offensive," he said. "For us, it didn't have the significance to the way it's being interpreted right now. It's a word used often with teens."