From Comcast SportsNetNEW YORK (AP) -- Yunel Escobar insisted he meant no insult, reiterating that the words he wrote were supposed to be "just a joke."The Toronto Blue Jays had a different read, suspending their starting shortstop for three games on Tuesday for wearing eye-black displaying a homophobic slur in Spanish during a game last weekend against Boston.Escobar apologized to his team and "to all those who have been offended.""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."Escobar said he wrote the message 10 minutes before Saturday's home game on his eye-black, a sticker players wear under their eyes to reduce sun glare. The 29-year-old Cuban said he frequently puts messages there -- usually inspirational, manager John Farrell offered -- and had never previously written that specific slur.Escobar insisted the word is often used within teams and by Latinos and "I didn't see it as something bad at the time.""For us, it doesn't have the significance to the way it's being interpreted now," he said. "It's a word without a meaning.""I don't have anything against homosexuals," he said, adding he didn't mean for the term to be "misinterpreted" by the gay community.The suspension -- issued after input from Commissioner Bud Selig, the players' union and team management -- was to have started Tuesday night. The game between Toronto and New York was rained out and a day-night doubleheader was set for Wednesday.The penalty was announced in a 26-minute news conference at Yankee Stadium. Escobar wore a jacket and jeans and was joined by Farrell, Toronto general manager Alex Anthopoulos, coach Luis Rivera and translator Robbie Guerra, a lawyer from the players' union.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 also will 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 Escobar with the message written during the Red Sox-Blue Jays game. Farrell said Escobar's notes are often to the effect of "Let's go today." They draw so little attention that nobody caught the change."There was no reason to think it was something derogatory," Farrell said.Farrell said the slur was written in small letters and "if someone had seen it, I would suspect someone would have said something."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.The NFL and college football have banned eye-black messages. The college ban came after stars including Tim Tebow, who wrote Bible verses, and Reggie Bush, who put his hometown area code, began to use the eye-black to send messages."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.Anthopoulos said he had spent most of the day with Escobar at the commissioner's office."I don't know there's a right way to deal with these things," he said. "You're not going to satisfy everyone."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.In April, Miami Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen was suspended for five games by his team because of comments that he loves Fidel Castro. Many Cuban-Americans were angered by the remarks.On Tuesday, Guillen said he didn't think Escobar meant to be offensive."I think he just did it for fun. I know he didn't mean to hurt anybody's feelings. Nobody is that stupid," he said before the Marlins hosted Atlanta."In my house, we call (each other) that word every 20 seconds. I've got three kids," Guillen said. "For us, it's like What's up, bro? What's up, dude?' It's how you say it and to who you say it. But that's our country. We have to respect this country. Sometimes for us it's funny, for other people it's not."Escobar was traded from Atlanta to Toronto in July 2010. He is hitting .251 this season with nine home runs and 49 RBIs.Escobar's salary this year is 5 million. The Blue Jays have club options on him for 2014 and 2015.
John Wall, Bradley Beal and the Washington Wizards host Gordon Hayward, Rudy Gobert and the Utah Jazz on Sunday evening as they aim to continue rising the ranks of the NBA's Eastern Conference.
Here is all you need to know: TV, live stream and radio info, tip-off time, plus three things to watch…
WASHINGTON WIZARDS vs. UTAH JAZZ
Where: Verizon Center
Tip-off: 5 p.m.
TV: CSN (coverage begins at 4:30 p.m.)
Live stream: CSNmidatlantic.com
Radio: 1500 AM
Three things to watch...
The Wizards came out of the All-Star break on Friday night with their most disappointing performance in nearly two months. They didn't just lose to the lowly 76ers, they lost to the 76ers without their best player, Joel Embiid. Offense wasn't the issue for the Wizards, it was their defense. They allowed Philly to drop 120 points and shoot 49.4 percent from the field.
The Wizards need to come out and play much better on defense if they plan to beat the Utah Jazz, who at 36-22 currently hold the fourth seed in the West. Working in the Wizards' favor is the fact the Jazz are among the worst scoring teams in the league. They rank 28th out of 30 in points per game (100.4). That said, the Wizards have let a few teams this season - the Sixers, Heat, Mavericks and Magic, for example - surprise them on that end of the court.
Bench scoring needed
The Jazz may have trouble scoring, and because of that probably should have done more at the trade deadline, but they are as good as any team on defense. The Jazz rank first in opponents points per game (95.7) and third in opponents field goal percentage (43.9). They are very good at defending the perimeter and have one of the best shotblockers in basketball down low in Rudy Gobert.
What could help the cause for Washington is some scoring from their bench. They only got 11 points from their second unit in Friday's loss to Philly and that won't cut it against a good team like Utah. Perhaps Bojan Bogdanovic, the Wizards' most notable trade deadline acquisition, can do better in his second game than he did in his debut (two points).
The Wizards were without backup big man Ian Mahinmi in the second half of Friday's loss to the Sixers because Mahinmi's back tightened up at halftime. He was limited to just seven minutes in the game, but was able to go through a full practice on Saturday at the Verizon Center. All signs point to Mahinmi playing on Sunday, but we will know more about his status when coach Scott Brooks speaks pregame.
If Mahinmi does play, it will still be something to watch. The Wizards signed him to a four-year, $64 million free agent deal in the offseason and he can't seem to find any luck in the injury department. He has missed 50 of the Wizards' 56 games this season due to knee injuries.
The mood changed immediately after the Wizards' embarrassing loss at the Philadelphia 76ers, with John Wall leading a lively discussion with the bigs in practice about coverages that were busted time after time.
Today's opponent, the Utah Jazz, are much better and a repeat performance will lead to another one.
"Whether we were in our pick-and-roll coverage, whether we were in our pindown coverage, our switches, everything was always a second late," Wizards coach Scott Brooks said of the 120-112 defeat. "When you do that you're always behind. You're always playing catch-up every possession. It wasn't just one guy. It was two or three guys on the same possession which has been rare for us.. Hopefully we can put it behind us."
The Wizards trailed 43-41 in the second quarter with mostly starters on the floor in Philadelphia. By halftime they were down 61-49. The only player in the last eight minutes of the second to make a field goal for the Wizards was Bradley Beal, who had a game-high 40 points.
When Trey Burke entered, he appeared uncomfortable running the offense. Tomas Satoransky, who has played in combination with him recently, didn't log any minutes. Jason Smith, who was displaced with the arrival of Bojan Bogdanovic and Ian Mahinmi in the lineup, only played four minutes but was a spark early in the fourth when the Wizards mounted a comeback.
Mahinmi only lasted seven minutes after back spasms, which flared up before the game, kept him on the bench in the second half. Bogdanovic had a full practice with his new team for the first time Saturday.
"We're trying to find some consistency. Getting Ian back, hopefully we can get him back to a stretch of games where he can play and build a chemistry with the group he's out there with," Brooks said. "Now Bojan so we can have him out there with that group. It's consistency and understanding where we can get some points. Trey and Tomas, I got to try to figure out what's the best minute-wise and who plays and the matchups."