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Major League Baseball: Misplaced Moral Priorities Are Exposed by Yunel Escobar

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Major League Baseball: Misplaced Moral Priorities Are Exposed by Yunel Escobar
Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images
Escobar's gay slur is much more serious than PED use.

On Tuesday, the Toronto Blue Jays—with the backing of Major League Baseball (MLB) and the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA)—suspended shortstop Yunel Escobar for three games for wearing a gay slur that he wrote into his eye black during a game played on Saturday (h/t New York Times).

Last season, the Chicago White Sox and Major League Baseball did not suspend second baseman Gordon Beckham when he wrote a message on the infield dirt directed at Kansas City Royals second baseman Chris Getz that said, "GETZ IS GAY! GB."

Atlanta Braves pitching coach Roger McDowell was suspended for two weeks last season by the league for making inappropriate gestures towards three men in the stands at AT&T Park and asking them, "Are you guys a homo couple or a threesome?"

MLB's tepid response to the anti-gay bigotry of Escobar this season and Beckham and McDowell last season pales in comparison to its complete silence on the issue of drunk driving.

Michael Pineda, Alex White, Bobby Jenks and Cristhian Martinez were all arrested on DUI charges this season without being suspended.

In 2011, Austin Kearns, Miguel Cabrera, Shin-Soo Choo, Adam Kennedy, Derek Lowe and Coco Crisp all were arrested on DUI charges without facing suspension, either.

The new Collective Bargaining Agreement that was negotiated this past winter did not include a new provision to allow MLB to suspend players for driving under the influence of alcohol despite the high number of DUIs from last season.

Bob Levey/Getty Images
Mota got 100 games for cough syrup, Escobar got 3 for bigotry.

MLB and the MLBPA have put harsh penalties in place in regards to performance-enhancing drug (PED) use, however.

A first-time offender faces a 50-game suspension, a repeat offender gets 100 games, and a third strike means you are out of the game for good. There's also growing sentiment around the game that the penalties for PED use need to be made harsher.

Part of this is no doubt due to the moral outrage of fans in regards to PED use. When I wrote an article arguing that Barry Bonds should be in the Hall of Fame despite his alleged PED use and another defending PED user Melky Cabrera, the overwhelming sentiment was that both players should be tarred and feathered for ruining the sanctity of the game.

Yet I don't sense the same moral outrage from most fans towards drunk drivers and those who have made anti-gay statements.

Thus, MLB's stance on bigotry and drunk driving has been to either do nothing or impose a minor suspension in the cases of Escobar and McDowell. Yet when Guillermo Mota accidentally violated the drug testing program by ingesting children's cough syrup, he was suspended for 100 games because he was a repeat offender.

So, if you are keeping score at home, MLB will suspend you for 100 games for drinking cough syrup, two weeks for anti-gay comments directed at fans, three games for writing a bigoted statement on your eyeblack, zero games for writing an anti-gay comment on the infield dirt and zero games for drunk driving.

Unfortunately, drunk driving kills 16,000 people per year and anti-gay murders reached a record level in 2011, while children's cough syrup and testosterone use didn't kill anyone, to my knowledge.

I am not suggesting that McDowell, Beckham and Escobar's actions were condoning the murdering of gay people. However, bigotry expressed through speech should be no more tolerable than the bigotry expressed through violence.

In the end, MLB's harsh treatment of those who attempt to maximize their earnings by using performance-enhancing drugs makes no sense in comparison to its tepid response to bigotry and drunk driving, which are much more serious moral offenses.

Gaining an edge through drug use sets a bad example. However, drinking and driving risks the lives of others, and anti-gay bigotry is absolutely intolerable. Major League Baseball needs to start taking drunk driving and bigotry as seriously as it takes PED use.

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