Donaldson speaks to teammates after incident with Anderson

June 1st, 2022

NEW YORK -- Josh Donaldson said on Wednesday that he has spoken to his Yankees teammates about the recent flap with Tim Anderson of the White Sox, adding that it was “tough to hear” Aaron Judge and manager Aaron Boone publicly criticize his invoking of Jackie Robinson’s name.

Donaldson -- who is currently on the 10-day injured list with right shoulder inflammation -- twice used the barrier-breaking Hall of Famer’s name in reference to Anderson during a May 21 game at Yankee Stadium, which the White Sox believed to be racially charged and sparked a benches-clearing incident.

“I talked to my teammates as soon as it happened and let them know the deal, and let them know where my intentions were,” Donaldson said. “I think everybody responded to what I had to say. They know my heart, and that wasn’t my intention at all. I do feel bad for the Robinson family. I never wanted them to feel [disrespected]. Their name should never be regarded in a bad light.”

Donaldson received a one-game suspension and an undisclosed fine from Major League Baseball for what the league said were “inappropriate comments.” Donaldson has appealed the discipline and said that he feels “comfortable” in the Yankees' clubhouse, while remaining irked that White Sox manager Tony La Russa said that Donaldson’s comment was “racist.”

“That’s a big thing and it’s extremely hurtful to have that accusation, not just myself but for my family,” Donaldson said. “That’s definitely not who I am, by any stretch or manner. After the confrontation happened, I made sure that I talked to the guys and to Boone [about], ‘Hey, this is what’s happened. I don’t know why this all of a sudden got blown out of proportion the way that it has.’

“I’ve had conversations with him in the past about it, as I said -- like jokingly, kind of giving friendly banter back and forth, and he took it as that. I know the reports have come out where he says, ‘Oh no, I didn’t.’ Maybe we misinterpreted [sic] it differently. Now I know. I’m not going to speak to the guy in that matter.”

Donaldson acknowledged that he twice referred to Anderson as “Jackie,” claiming that he was referring to a 2019 Sports Illustrated interview in which Anderson, who is Black, said that he feels like “today’s Jackie Robinson” in terms of adding more fun to the game. Donaldson said that he also made the “Jackie” comment to Anderson in 2019, when Donaldson was a member of the Braves.

"He did say that, and I told him we never have to talk again," Anderson said on May 24. "I don't speak to you, you don't speak to me, if that's how you want to refer to me. I know he knew exactly what he was doing, because I already told him."

In the wake of the benches-clearing incident, Boone said that “this is, just in my opinion, somewhere [Donaldson] should not be going." Judge said: "Joke or not, I just don't think it's the right thing to do there,” adding that Donaldson “made a mistake.”

Donaldson said that there has been animosity between him and the White Sox in recent years, including a parking-lot confrontation with Chicago pitcher Lucas Giolito last season, when Donaldson was with the Twins. Tensions were high before the May 21 incident, stemming from a close play at third base in which Donaldson tagged Anderson, prompting a shove from the runner.

“It’s been confusing, because I talked to a lot of their guys before that series and they all seemed fine,” Donaldson said. “When it comes on the field, hey, I should not talk to these guys anymore. I don’t ever want to be brought up in that light. It’s been tough.”

Donaldson was first placed on the COVID-19 injured list, then received a cortisone injection in his right shoulder, which has been an issue since Spring Training. Donaldson said that his shoulder feels much better; he is eligible to be activated on Thursday.