Yunel Escobar of the Toronto Blue Jays signals to the dugout during a MLB game against the Boston Red Sox on September 15, 2012 at Rogers Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
Credit: Tom Szczerbowski

Yunel Escobar said he didn't mean anything personal when he wrote "you are a faggot" in Spanish inside the eye-black on his face during a recent Major League Baseball game.

After all, his hairdresser is gay, and so is his decorator.

Of course, that might leave you believing, with friends like Yunel Escobar ...

“It was not something I meant to be offensive,” Escobar said Tuesday during a press conference to announce his three-game suspension. “It was nothing intentional directed at anyone in particular.”

The 29-year-old Cuban played last Saturday's game against Boston with "Tu ere maricon" written on the eye-black, that sticky tape ball players wear under their eyes to cut down on glare.

It was there for the entire world to see — and photograph — and the Toronto Blue Jays suspended him for three games after photos started circulating on the Internet.

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Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association both sanctioned the three-game ban without pay.

The $90,000 Escobar would have earned is going to charity.

“The Toronto Blue Jays do not support discrimination of any kind nor condone the message displayed by Yunel Escobar during Saturday’s game,” the Blue Jays said in a news release.

General manager Alex Anthopoulos, manager John Farrell and coach Luis Rivera were also with Escobar to talk with reporters.

There is some debate on the English translation of Escobar's words.

Some say it's not as harsh in Spanish, and players often bat it around the clubhouse in jocular fashion.

Others suggest it's insensitive regardless.

Escobar was benched for Sunday's game after he came down with "flu-like symptoms," which can be code in the sports world for "you're benched."

It was a fan James Greenhalgh who outed Escobar.

He often takes photos at Jays’ games, and then posts them on the internet.

He told CBC he noticed the message after the game and then translated it online.

“There are a million insults he could have used that would have been funny, this was not one of them,” Greenhalgh told CBC.

The incident is especially sensitive in Toronto.

Toronto Maples Leafs general manager Brian Burke’s son, Brendan, came out as gay shortly before he died in a car crash in 2010.

Brendan was a grad student and assistant hockey coach at Miami University (Ohio).

Since then, the Burke family has launched the “You Can Play” program that advocates for inclusive sports programs similar to the “It’s Get Better” campaign many MLB teams endorse.

You Can Play is one charity that will receive a donation from Escobar.

“It’s disappointing to see stuff like this,” said Patrick Burke, Brendan’s brother and president of You Can Play.

“The sports world has made such great progress in the last five years on being LGBT-inclusive.”

Progress, yes, but obviously there's still a long road ahead.

Just ask Yunel Escobar's hairdresser.

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