Yunel Escobar drew fire for the homophobic phrase he wrote in his eyeblack. (Tom Szczerbowski/GETTY IMAGES)

UPDATE (5:30 p.m.): Yunel Escobar has been suspended without pay for three games for writing a gay slur on his eye black during a Saturday game. Read the full story here.

Like a number of athletes, Toronto Blue Jays shortstop Yunel Escobar enjoys scribbling fun phrases on his eye black on game day.

But few are laughing after photos surfaced Monday night of the 29-year-old Cuban sporting a gay slur across his cheeks in Spanish during Saturday’s game against Boston. And now MLB is investigating.

The phrase in question is translated as “you are a [gay slur].” Jays fan @james_in_to captured a photo of the phrase from behind the dugout during the game (via Big League Stew).

MLB spokesman Pat Courtney confirmed to the Associated Press that the commissioner’s office is investigating the reports.

“The club takes this situation seriously and is investigating the matter,” the Blue Jays said in a statement Monday night, adding they “do not support discrimination of any kind nor condone the message displayed by Yunel Escobar during Saturday’s game.”

The incident comes just two weeks after Maryland Delegate Emmett C. Burns Jr. (D-Baltimore County) blasted Baltimore Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo for his unabashed support of the organization Marylanders for Marriage Equality.

Burns immediately faced a tidal wave of backlash, and few critics were as vocal as Vikings punter Chris Kluwe, who wrote Burns a letter, bashing his “vitriolic hatred and bigotry.” Burns later backtracked from his remarks, deciding that “upon reflection, (Ayanbadejo) has First Amendment rights.”

When the photos of Escobar’s eye black surfaced, Kluwe was once again quick to express his disapproval.

Too bad to hear about Yunel Escobar. “Gay” is not something to be ashamed or insulted by, no matter what language you use. #equalityforall

— Chris Kluwe (@ChrisWarcraft) September 18, 2012

Whether Escobar’s eye black was part of an ill-conceived prank, as former Blue Jays pitcher Dirk Hayhurst suggested, or a serious case of poor taste, there is simply no place for this in the game. And when Escobar faces the media before Toronto faces the Yankees tonight in New York, he’ll no doubt be asked to explain himself.

Whatever his explanation, Doug Smith of the Toronto Star believes Escobar deserves a stiff penalty for what he deemed a “senseless, vile, wrong, inflammatory” act. Smith wrote:

What he did was so ridiculous it almost defies logic; I honestly can’t think what he was thinking and it will be interesting to hear what he says. And he has to speak to it and his actions, it has to be more than some scripted apology read off a piece of paper and I’m not even sure genuine contrition will be enough. There is no logical explanation but fans are owed an attempt at least.

Should MLB suspend Escobar? If so, for how long?

Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this post contained the offending word, which is not Post policy. — CB

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