By Brad Lendon
(CNN) — Toronto Blue Jays shortstop Yunel Escobar is expected to face the media on Tuesday 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.
The team put out a statement Monday that it is looking into the case.
“The Toronto Blue Jays do not support discrimination of any kind nor condone the message displayed by Yunel Escobar during Saturday’s game. The club takes this situation seriously and is investigating the matter,” the team’s statement said.
The team said its general manager and senior vice president of baseball operations, Alex Anthopoulos, would address the case in New York on Tuesday before the Blue Jays’ game against the Yankees.
“We expect him to be joined by Yunel Escobar, Manager John Farrell and Coach Luis Rivera,” the statement said.
Neither the team nor Escobar have said exactly what was intended by the language.
Maria Cristina Cuervo, a professor of Spanish 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 is more of a teasing insult.
Though Escobar displayed the words on his eye black during Saturday’s game in Toronto against the Boston Red Sox, the incident did not gain attention until Monday, when a photo of Escobar was posted on Flickr by a Blue Jays fan, identified by the Toronto Star as James Greenhalgh, a season-ticket holder who sits behind the Blue Jays dugout in Rogers Centre.
On the Flickr post, Greenhalgh calls Escobar’s actions “very disappointing,” adding that homophobic slurs “are not acceptable insults in 2012.”
“We need to get rid of them. When our sports heroes proliferate their usage, our progress takes a step back,” the Flickr post says.
The league added a non-discrimination based on sexual orientation clause to the collective bargaining agreement it signed with the players’ union last November.
Last year, Atlanta Braves pitching coach Roger McDowell was suspended for two weeks without pay after he was accused of making vulgar, homophobic and threatening comments at a Giants-Braves game on April 23 at the AT&T Park in San Francisco. McDowell also was fined and told to go through sensitivity training.
“Major League Baseball is a social institution that brings people together and welcomes all individuals of different races, religions, genders, national origins and sexual orientations into its ballparks. Conduct by people associated with MLB that shows insensitivity to others simply cannot and will not be tolerated,” Commissioner Bud Selig said in a statement after the McDowell incident.
Escobar, 29, is from Havana, Cuba. He is a veteran of seven major league seasons, both with the Blue Jays and Atlanta Braves.
He did not play in Sunday’s game in Toronto after suffering “flu-like symptoms,” according to the Star report. The Blue Jays did not have a game on Monday.
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