For those who suffer the misfortune of not being able to stream this afternoon’s press conference– which Sportsnet is making available live at 3:30 ET– we’ll be following along here in this post, digesting the proceedings as they happen.
You can also listen live via the Fan 590.
For context, here’s what Getting Blanked, and DJF wrote about the controversy when it broke, plus my additional post after the Jays released their statement last night, and a follow-up from Parkes noting this wasn’t the first time Escobar has had questionable messages scrawled on his eye black.
[Update: It's a three game suspension-- see below for details. Oh, and tonight's game is rained out, officially. Day-night doubleheader tomorrow.]
Here we go…
4:25 PM: Well, there you have it. Escobar, who didn’t exactly look like he was suffering from flu-like symptoms, wasn’t asked why he missed the game on Sunday, after explaining that he heard yesterday that there were pictures on the internet. Outwardly he was contrite, apologetic, but insistent that he intended no offence, that it was a “word with no meaning,” and that it’s just something Latino players say. Yet he says that, now that it’s been brought to his attention that it’s not an appropriate word to use, he agrees with the suspension.
I don’t know if that went as well as it could have, though. The three games seems light, and the insistence that Escobar wouldn’t have known the context of such a word is pretty flimsy, given what we’ve heard– particularly from the Cuba experts in Cathal Kelly’s piece for the Toronto Star.
The Q&A went a little off message, or presented a bunch of mixed messages. For example, John Farrell saying homophobia isn’t a problem in clubhouse culture right after Escobar said that this was a word that’s used commonly by Latino players.
And as fun as it is to blame the interpreter– who appeared to be there as a vaguely neutral party, rather than having Luis Rivera speak– it’s not like they were going to fool any of the Spanish speaking reporters, of whom there were many, by softening the comments when translated.
Ultimately, Anthopoulos comes out of this looking best, I think, as he brought the positive, bridge-building sentiment and acknowledged the deep issue of homophobia– present in just the pure banality with which Escobar could say it was “a word without meaning”– in not just sports, but society. There’s no wrong in wanting to take this as a teachable moment for his players, and anyone following, and a jumping off towards making a positive impact with regard to education and visibility for how hurtful this kind of language is.
As the representative of the Jays as an organization and a company, I think he did well– and evoked, in a way, the positive end to the incident between Robbie Alomar and umpire John Hirschbeck, who later became friends, and Alomar a fellow advocate for research to cure ALD, the disease that took the life of Hirschbeck’s son, which Alomar infamously called the umpire bitter about during the incident. Even if you think the suspension is light, or wonder how Escobar will be viewed when he returns to SkyDome to finish out the season next week, I think the company looks like it handled a bad situation about as well as it could.
On the other hand, I must say, Farrell and Escobar, though their task was tougher, didn’t do a tremendous job of representing the clubhouse. From the questionable insistence that nobody saw or could have prevented Escobar from entering the field of play with such a message on his eye black, to the straight-out-of-the-50s ”some of my best friends– or at least my hair dresser and interior decorator– are gay” line, it wasn’t exactly satisfactory.
Will it be sufficient to satisfy enough fans to let this whole thing blow over? That remains to be seen, and I’m not entirely sure it will. But it’s still murky. And the sad fact is, we know this won’t be the last incident of its kind, given just how common this kind of hurtful language is in locker room culture– and certainly not only among Latinos. Yes, it’s entirely naive to think of athletes as paragons of virtue, but that doesn’t justify in the slightest the instinct so many have to brush this incident off, or to chalk it up more to the ignorance of someone taking clubhouse language into the public.
It’s ugly, and it’s a long way from being rooted out, and that’s why I’m with Anthopoulos on this one, who seemed to at least know and accept what’s wrong about this, and to view it in whatever way possible so as to turn a negative into a positive. I don’t know if I can say the same of Escobar, and I certainly don’t think I can of Farrell, which only adds to the disappointment we all ought to feel as fans in the wake of this.
Like Yunel, you can also donate to You Can Play– and of your actual own volition, too!
See below for the chronology of the press conference, as it happened…
4:05 PM: That’s it. Final update coming.
3:59 PM: ”Honestly, the ‘you’ is not referencing anyone specifically,” the interpreter explains, before looking around the room to see if there might be another job available.
3:57 PM: This translator isn’t helping anyone, I don’t think– well, at least not the Jays and Escobar. It depends on how it’s said and who it’s said to, he says.
3:54 PM: “I have many gay friends. The person who cuts my hair, the person who decorates my house is gay,” he said. Seriously. “Honestly, they haven’t felt as offended.”
3:53 PM: ”I apologized today to my teammates and my coach, because it was not their fault,” Escobar says.
3:52 PM: We spent the day at the commissioner’s office today, with the players’ association, Anthopoulos says– however, the suspension comes from the team itself.
3:51 PM: “Honestly, I wish this wasn’t an issue any longer. I have no issue against the gay community and I’m sorry,” Escobar reiterates.
3:49 PM: Farrell says he was surprised by all this, as the messages on Escobar’s eye black were usually “positive, motivational, uplifting.” The manager says, “if someone had seen it, I suspect that someone would have said something.”
3:48 PM: ”At the end of the day, if the Blue Jays become a vehicle, if Yunel becomes a vehicle, as unfortunate as this is, to make things better,” Anthopoulos says, that will at least be a positive thing to come of it.
3:46 PM: ”It’s been a terrible thing in my career,” Escobar says. Of the suspension, Anthopoulos says it was done collectively– front office, ownership, and MLB. “I don’t know if there’s a right way to ever do these things.” He adds, “there is a problem not only in sports, there’s a problem in society, and ultimately what this is about is how we move on from here.”
“From a Latin perspective the word is used,” AA says. “Obviously that doesn’t make it right.”
3:44 PM: “What came out in all of this is a lack of education,” says Alex Anthopoulous. “It’s something we’re not proud of, we’re not happy, and I think it’s something Yunel is now going to become and advocate, and to work with those groups.” He continues, “suspending someone doesn’t fix the problem that’s going on, because it obviously goes beyond this.”
3:44 PM: He reiterates, “it was a joke,” and “it wasn’t directed at anyone in particular.”
3:43 PM: ”I’m embarrassed,” he says– for his team and for the organization, he adds.
3:41 PM: “It went from what was intended to be a joke to a problem. … I didn’t see it as something as bad at the time as it’s been interpreted.” He adds that “I agree with the suspension, I don’t have any problem with that,” all of this through a translator, of course.
3:40 PM: ”It’s word without meaning,” he says, through Rivera, saying that it’s a word used among teams, and the intention was never to be offensive. “It’s something said around among Latinos,” and “it was not something directed at anyone in particular,” he adds.
3:38 PM: Farrell: no one paid attention to what was written, because he’d written so many messages on his eye black, and the text was small. Ergo, no one stopped him.
3:37 PM: “I’m sorry for what happened, and I can guarantee this will never happen in my career. It’s a lesson I’ve learned and I don’t intend for it to happen again in my career,” he says via the translator. He apologizes again to the gay community.
3:35 PM: Escobar is making a statement in Spanish. He looks reasonable sheepish. “I’m sorry for the actions,” he says, via translator Luis Rivera. “It was not something I intended to be offensive… it was nothing intentional or directed at anyone in particular.” He adds, “I don’t have anything against homosexuals,” apologizing to “anyone who may have been offended by this.”
3:33 PM: From the official release:
The salary lost by Yunel Escobar during his suspension will be directed by the Toronto Blue Jays to You Can Play and the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD). Yunel will participate in an outreach initiative to help educate society about sensitivity and tolerance to others based on their sexual orientation. His participation will be conducted in consultation with all parties involved. Escobar will also participate in a sensitivity training program in accordance with the Toronto Blue Jays and Major League Baseball.
The Blue Jays want to reaffirm that discrimination of any kind will not be tolerated. The club looks forward to supporting the efforts of You Can Play and GLAAD to help promote education for players and fans alike and to help keep language like this out of the game and society.
This sounds like the way it should be handled, yes?
3:31 PM: Shit, sorry about that, internet blip for about four minutes, so we had to turn on our radios. The Fan 590 guys say that it’s a three game suspension– via an official release from the club. They then proceed to talk about the implications for Baltimore. Fucking seriously? We’re back in business, but still waiting for the audio to kick in on Sportsnet’s feed.
3:26 PM: Not sure what I was just watching where Rosenthal was speaking– perhaps the radio feed?– but it went to dead air after Kenny Ken Ken’s comments, while the computer Parkes is on had the live video from the conference room in the Bronx. I had to restart my feed, so… fuck… now internet troubles all over the place here.
3:20 PM: The stream has started up, with a little preamble (or pre-taped segment, it seems) via the Fan 590 radio, I believe, with Ken Rosenthal speaking, explaining that he expects discipline of some kind. He notes Ozzie Guillen’s comments about Castro having warranted a suspension in the Marlins’ eyes earlier this season.