According to Major League Baseball, apparently overt bigotry isn’t nearly as big of a deal as trying to gain a competitive edge by boosting testosterone, arguing vehemently with an umpire, or drilling an opposing batter in the backside with a fastball. At least, that’s the message one can take from the three game suspension handed to Toronto Blue Jays shortstop, Yunel Escobar for having the words “tu ere maricon” on his eye black. Translated to English, the words mean “you are a faggot.”
Every year for the last…oh, God only knows how long, journalists have been predicting that “this is the year an active professional athlete comes out of the closet.” Never mind that these journalists apparently don’t do their research, since Toronto Impact midfielder, David Testo already has. Digressing, I guess one can make the argument that MLS soccer is not nearly as high in profile as baseball, soccer, basketball, and to a certain degree, hockey. Still, this latest series of events with Escobar and his suspension, if you can even call it a suspension, is a prime example of why it’s unlikely an active athlete in a high profile professional sport will come out. The primary reason, one would have to assume, for a gay athlete to stay closeted would be fear of violence and ridicule. And by failing to lay the hammer down on Escobar, MLB has essentially made the statement that it’s not that big of a deal to be a bigot.
If you try to give yourself an artificial edge by boosting your testosterone, you get a 50 game ban for a first offense… unless of course your name is Ryan Braun, which is a whole other pile of bullcrap we have already covered here. If you vehemently argue with an umpire over a call, even if you are in the right, you face a suspension of greater than three games, especially if you make contact with said umpire, intentional or otherwise. If you make statements to the media regarding the umpiring, you face a suspension around the three games Escobar got for his slur.
I’ll say it again, I just don’t see it happening. I don’t see a gay athlete coming out. And it’s not just MLB’s lack of authoritative smack down on Escobar, or simply Escobar’s bigotry itself. People exactly like me are part of the problem too. I am a baseball guy, through and through. I am blue collar, honest but flawed, a huge believe in fairness across the board, and usually vote on the Democratic side, if only because the politicians making up the GOB can only be described as fools. I am vocally in favor of gay marriage, civil and domestic equality for all races, sexual orientations, and gender across the board. And I loudly and crudely call out bigots and racists. But not that long ago, I jokingly called a friend of mine a pole smoker. Though not to the level of faggot, that’s also a gay slur. My friend isn’t gay, and I didn’t intend to offend anyone with my comment. I made it without thinking. So yeah, people like me are part of the problem. People use slurs, ranging from the ignorant or slightly uncouth, to the downright vulgar without really having any ill intent. It isn’t right, but it happens. What a God damned hypocrite I am, preaching against the offense while being a part of the problem.
Civil rights is a bit beyond the scope of our humble blog here. But there is a societal issue involved as well. A straight white guy can participate in an activity that exhibits pride in his heritage and he is immediately branded a racist. However, a gay man can drench himself in artificial flamboyance under the guise of being proud to be gay and it’s not a problem. A black man can speak using atrocious grammar that would shock and appall any English teacher but it’s okay because he’s gangsta. It makes no sense. People who behave in that manner, though they have every right to, make the every day gay or black guy cringe. The efforts of those who have shed blood, sweat and tears in the good fight for civil equality across the board are minimized as a result. The fight for tolerance is a losing one as a direct result. There’s an incongruence.
Apologists in the Latino community will say that Escobar didn’t mean anything negative. There are non-offensive ways to interpret being called a faggot. They made the same argument when Liverpool’s star striker Luis Suarez, who is from Uruguay, after he racially abused Manchester United’s Patrice Evra. This too is a bunch of crap. Escobar and Suarez are both bigots. Plain and simple. Ignorance of socially acceptable behavior is not an excuse, and it’s time that flim flam is called what it is.
Anyway, I know I’m rambling. One last point. For my day job, I work in marketing for an insurance company. If I showed up to work with the word faggot visible anywhere on my person, I will be summarily fired, as I should be. Escobar, however, gets three games. Essentially 1% of the workdays he has during the year. Would it have been an overreaction to suspend him for… say 50 games? Would it? I don’t know, but I wouldn’t have argued.