Toronto Blue Jays shortstop Yunel Escobar received scattered boos Thursday night in his first home game since his suspension for writing an antigay slur on his face.
“A few fans booed when Escobar’s name was announced as the lineups were read for Toronto’s game against the New York Yankees,” the Associated Press reports. “There was a mix of boos and cheers as Escobar batted in the bottom of the first inning.”
The team suspended Escobar for three games this month after he sported a gay slur written in Spanish in his eye-black, a substance athletes sometimes wear under their eyes to lessen the effects of glare. He subsequently apologized and said he was joking.
Before the game, Escobar met for 45 minutes with Boston College runner Jose Estevez, who is gay, and Patrick Burke, cofounder of the You Can Play campaign to encourage acceptance of LGBT athletes. Burke is the son of hockey executive Brian Burke and brother of the late Brendan Burke, a gay man who served as manager of his college hockey team.
“I think it put a face on the issue for Yunel,” Burke told the AP of the meeting. “I think it humanized the issue of gay athletes for Yunel, and I think Jose did a great job today.” Burke and Estevez also met with Blue Jays management, and the game’s ceremonial first pitch was thrown by gay soccer player David Testo, a You Can Play board member, to Escobar.
A gay Blue Jays fan, Christopher Papps, has started an online petition urging the team to make a video for You Can Play. Escobar’s salary for the games he missed because of his suspension, roughly $82,000, is being donated to You Can Play and GLAAD.