29-year-old Escobar was hit with a 3 game suspension for decorating his eye black patches with the Spanish word for f**got" -- which he wore during Saturday's game against Boston (below).
Moments ago, Escobar addressed the media ... and explained, "I feel bad, I’m leaving my team for something I didn’t intend to do. I have nothing against the gay community and honestly I’m sorry."
He claimed, "It was just a joke and it wasn’t directed to anyone in particular."
Escobar says the phrase has a different meaning in Spanish ... but when asked to clarify what it meant to him or why he wrote it ... he couldn't come up with a real answer.
Escobar will forfeit his salary for the games he will miss -- with portions of the money reportedly going to GLAAD ... a powerful gay rights organization.