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…
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