White Sox, Yanks address Donaldson's comment to Anderson

May 22nd, 2022

NEW YORK -- Both benches and bullpens emptied during the fifth inning of the Yankees’ 7-5 victory over the White Sox on Saturday afternoon at Yankee Stadium, an incident sparked by the visitors’ reaction to what they believed to be a racially-charged comment by New York’s Josh Donaldson.

Donaldson acknowledged that he twice referred to White Sox shortstop Tim 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.”

Anderson took offense, later saying: “He made a disrespectful comment. [Donaldson] basically tried to call me Jackie Robinson, like, ‘What’s up, Jackie?’ I don’t play like that. I don’t need to play at all. I wasn’t really bothering [anybody] today, but he made the comment and it was disrespectful.”

Major League Baseball is investigating the exchanges and speaking to those involved, according to Yankees manager Aaron Boone, who said on Sunday that he has already spoken to senior vice president of on-field operations Michael Hill.

Tensions have been high between Anderson and Donaldson since a May 13 game at Chicago’s Guaranteed Rate Field, when both benches cleared after Anderson shoved Donaldson following a first-inning play at third base. Donaldson said that he intended for his comment to neutralize that animosity.

“I took responsibility for the tag; I wasn’t trying to do anything there,” Donaldson said. “Today, I was just trying to defuse it, make light. Hey, we’re not trying to start any brawls or anything like that. Obviously, he deemed that it was disrespectful. And look, if he did, I apologize. That’s not what I was trying to do.”

Donaldson first made the comment while on base in the second inning; Anderson and Donaldson then exchanged words in the third and were promptly separated. Anderson told his teammates what Donaldson said, which sparked the situation between Donaldson and catcher Yasmani Grandal when Donaldson came to bat in the fifth.

“They talked about it as a team, and [Grandal] tried to confront me,” Donaldson said. “I didn’t know what he was talking about at the beginning. I’m like, ‘What are you talking about?’ He’s like, ‘You know what you said.’

“I said, ‘Are you referring to me calling him Jackie?’ I thought that was a joke between him and I, because we’ve talked about it before. He’s called himself Jackie Robinson. That’s why I thought it was funny between us.”

White Sox manager Tony La Russa said that Donaldson “made a racist comment, and that’s all I’m going to say.”

Yankees manager Aaron Boone said before Sunday’s game that he spoke with Donaldson and several other Yankees about the situation.

“With what’s been going on between the two players and the two teams the last week or two, I certainly understand how that would be sensitive, and I understand the reaction,” Boone said. “Josh has been very forthcoming with the history and context of it, so I don’t believe there was any malicious intent in that regard. But this is, just in my opinion, somewhere he should not be going.”

In the May 6, 2019, Sports Illustrated article, Anderson told Stephanie Apstein that he felt a responsibility to help break what he called baseball’s “have-fun barrier.”

“I kind of feel like today’s Jackie Robinson,” Anderson said in the interview. “That’s huge to say. But it’s cool, man, because he changed the game, and I feel like I’m getting to a point where I need to change the game.”

Donaldson said that Saturday was not the first time he referred to Anderson as “Jackie.” Donaldson claimed that he did so in 2019, when he was a member of the Braves.

“If something has changed from that, my meaning of that is not in any term trying to be racist, by any fact of the matter,” Donaldson said. “It was just off of an interview, what he called himself. We’ve said that before. We’ve joked about it. He laughed.”

Both benches were warned after Saturday’s incident, during which no punches were thrown and no ejections were issued. With Donaldson and Grandal separated, the clubs clustered at home plate for several minutes, with La Russa and Boone both seeking clarification from home-plate umpire Nick Mahrley.

Anderson also participated in the fifth-inning chatter, jogging from his position toward home plate before being restrained by Chicago teammates José Abreu and Gavin Sheets. Though Chicago’s Josh Harrison was later hit by a Nestor Cortes pitch, tensions did not flare again between the two sides -- until after the game.

Said Grandal: “This game went through a period of time where a lot of those comments were made, and I think we’re way past that. It’s just unacceptable. I thought it was a low blow, and I’m going to make sure I’ve got my team’s back. There’s no way you’re allowed to say something like that. It’s unacceptable.”

The Yankees and White Sox are scheduled to continue their series with a doubleheader on Sunday. Donaldson said he spoke with some of his teammates about the situation and would be open to meeting with Anderson to discuss Saturday’s events.