NEW YORK – Toronto shortstop Yunel Escobar was suspended for three games Tuesday by the Blue Jays for wearing eye-black displaying a homophobic slur written in Spanish during a game last weekend against Boston.
Escobar apologized "to all those who have been offended" for what he said was meant to be "just a joke."
"It was not something I intended to be offensive," he said through a translator. "It was not anything intended to be directed at anyone in particular."
The suspension -- issued after input from Commissioner Bud Selig, the players' union and team management -- was to have started Tuesday night at Yankee Stadium. The game between Toronto and New York was rained out.
As part of his penalty, Escobar's lost salary during the ban -- about $82,000 -- will be directed to two advocacy groups, the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation and You Can Play.
Escobar will also take part in an outreach initiative to promote tolerance to others based on their sexual orientation, and participate in a sensitivity training program.
Pictures posted online showed the 29-year-old Cuban infielder with the message written in his eye-black, a sticker players wear under their eyes to reduce sun glare, during Saturday's home game against Boston.
Major League Baseball regulations prohibit derogatory words and symbols on uniforms. Writing something of that nature on eye-black would fall under that category, MLB spokesman Pat Courtney said.
"Mr. Escobar has admitted that his actions were a mistake and I am hopeful he can use this unfortunate situation as an opportunity to educate himself and others that intolerance has no place in our game or society," Selig said in a statement.
GLAAD President Herndon Graddick commended the decision.
"Today's actions show that MLB and the Toronto Blue Jays are committed to creating an environment that all fans and families can enjoy, not a place where discriminatory language and anti-gay attitudes are accepted," Graddick said in a statement.
In May 2011, MLB suspended Atlanta pitching coach Roger McDowell for two weeks without pay for inappropriate comments and gestures with homophobic and sexual overtones he made toward fans before a game in San Francisco.