Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Reaction to a reaction

Yunel Escobar's eye-black incident has been investigated and a punishment has been handed down. He will serve a three game suspension and the money he would have earned over that time is being donated to GLAAD and You Can Play. According to the press release issued by the Blue Jays;
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.
-- Blue Jays Press Release 09/18/2012 
The suspension was to be expected, and Yunel's participation in an an outreach program is promising. What left me cold was the press conference to discuss the outcome of the investigation, and the comments from teammates afterwards. From glib stereotyping by Yunel Escobar, to contradictory statements by Alex Anthopoulos (homophobia's a problem) and John Farrell (not in our clubhouse), and  apologists who still insist that "it doesn't mean the same thing in Latin circles", it feels like the message hasn't sunk in.

The only voice in the clubhouse I'm inclined to believe is that of Carlos Villanueva. Chris Toman, Blue Jays beat writer who wrote an excellent piece on Villanueva and the importance of education, tweeted the following:

I still feel that the clubhouse it partly responsible for the incident, and that it's not enough for Yunel Escobar to be the only part of the organization to take part in any sort of outreach program. The rest of the team should, at the very least, go through a sensitivity training program, especially after some still believe that since the term doesn't mean the same in Spanish speaking circles it's not that big a deal. If the Blue Jays were to announce an awareness or fundraising partnership with either You Can Play or GLAAD, that would be a step in the right direction.

If today's press conference is the last we hear of the organization's efforts to move themselves towards being a more tolerant environment in the realm professional sports, and Yunel doesn't learn anything from this, then Villanueva is right. It won't matter, and this will go down as one of the darkest times in Blue Jays history.

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