Anti-homophobia group works with baseball minor leagues following use of anti-gay slur

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a white background.

The founder of an anti-homophobia sports organisation has spoken to the minor league teams of a baseball team involved in a controversy last year, when a player wore an anti-gay slur on his face.

On Friday, Patrick Burke, co-founder of You Can Play, an anti-homophobia in sports campaign group, visited the camp of the baseball team, the Toronto Blue Jays, and spoke about the damaging effect of homophobic slurs.

The talks came after a former Blue Jays baseball player in the US had to apologise for a “mistake” he made when writing a homophobic slur on his face during a game, and has said that he wants to put the past behind him.

Yunel Escobar, 30, then of the Toronto Blue Jays, wore eyeblack, a grease worn by players to reduce sun-glare, emblazoned with the words “tu ere” and “maricon”, which translates loosely into English as “You are a faggot”. He was suspended for three games.

Tweeting having finished at the camp, Burke said: “Finished up our @YouCanPlayTeam training with @BlueJays minor league squads. @JoseEstevezbc was amazing. TBJ response ‘That was perfect'”

Burke is the son of former Toronto Maple Leafs president and general marnager Brian Burke, and the brother of the late Brendan Burke. Brendan came out in 2009, whilst serving as manager of Miami of Ohio’s hockey team, but died a few months afterwards in a car accident.

On the news that former Leeds United player Robbie Rogers had come out, Burke said he thought gay players in top American leagues would start to come out.

“I think we have hit the turning point in the sports world for sure. The majority of professional athletes are supportive and do not care if one of their team mates or opponents is gay, it makes no difference to them,” Burke said.

After playing for the Blue Jays, Escobar was traded to the Miami Marlins in November, and to Tampa Bay, just weeks later.