Gay-bashing has become increasingly unacceptable in professional sports in recent years. Kobe Bryant was fined $100,000 — also known as “walking around money,” as far as Kobe is concerned, but still — for calling a referee a faggot. Atlanta Braves pitching coach Roger McDowell was suspended for two weeks without pay after asking some hecklers whether they were a “homo couple” and then making this gesture with a bat. So, it simply boggles the mind that, in light of these punishments — as well as, you know, basic human dignity — a professional athlete would write a gay slur directly on his own face for all the world to see. And yet, this is what Toronto Blue Jays shortstop Yunel Escobar is accused of doing in a game on Saturday.
Escobar, who has been with the Jays since 2010, played Saturday’s game against the Boston Red Sox with the Spanish words “TU ERE MARICON” written on an eyeblack sticker, a black patch baseball players wear under their eyes to reduce the sun’s glare.
The phrase’s most common English translation is “You are a faggot.” Other translations are less explicitly homophobic, but more of an emasculating insult.
As you can see, the case against Escobar is not quite open and shut. What of these other, “less explicitly homophobic” translations? An expert weighs in:
“It is derogatory, but it’s not necessarily homophobic,” said Maria Cristina Cuervo, a professor of Spanish at the University of Toronto.
Yes, it can mean ‘You are a faggot.’ But according to Cuervo, context is everything. The word is a derivation of the proper name Maria del Carmen. The diminutive form of that name has morphed into an effeminizing epithet that has a clear gender component, but not necessarily a sexual one.
“I would take it as, ‘You are like a girl. You’re weak’,” Cuervo said. “I don’t curse much, so I don’t know the appropriate level in English. It has to be something like ‘wuss’.”
So, it’s not totally clear what Escobar’s eye-black message meant, exactly. But you know how he could have avoided such confusion altogether? If he had instead written, “Best of luck in the game today, everyone. You’re all exceptional athletes and worthy opponents.” These days, though, you just don’t see that kind of thing anymore.