Josh Donaldson suspended one game for ‘Jackie’ comment to Tim Anderson

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New York Yankees third baseman Josh Donaldson received a one-game suspension and must pay an undisclosed fine for a comment made to Chicago White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson, Major League Baseball announced Monday.

Donaldson admitted to calling Anderson, one of baseball’s ever-shrinking cohort of Black stars, “Jackie” during the Yankees’ 7-5 win over the White Sox on Saturday at Yankee Stadium. The comment was a reference to Jackie Robinson, who became the first Black player to play in the major leagues in 1947. Robinson enduring relentless racism as he integrated a sport that continues to struggle to make Black athletes feel at home 75 years later.

Donaldson said he made the comment as a joke, saying he meant it as a reference to a 2019 Sports Illustrated story in which Anderson said he feels like “today’s Jackie Robinson” in that he is “getting to the point where I need to change the game.” He told reporters that he and Anderson had joked about it in the past.

“So if something has changed from that, like my meaning of that is not any term trying to be racist,” Donaldson said.

Benches clear after Josh Donaldson calls Tim Anderson ‘Jackie’

Anderson did not share in the joke, calling the comment “disrespectful” and saying, “I don’t play like that.” His manager and teammates did n’t see any humor in the reference, either. White Sox Manager Tony La Russa called it “racist,” and closer Liam Hendriks said Donaldson’s story made no sense.

“Usually you have inside jokes with people you get along with — not people who don’t get along at all,” Hendriks told the Athletic. “So that statement right there was complete [crap]”

Donaldson will appeal the suspension, which means he would have been eligible to play for the Yankees on Monday night against the Baltimore Orioles. As it happens, New York placed Donaldson on the covid-19 injured list Monday. He will not be able to serve the suspension, should it stand on appeal, until he is active.

Shortly after the suspension was announced, White Sox pitching coach Ethan Katz tweeted his dismay that Donaldson’s punishment was not more severe.

“Just one game. We all saw his malice at third a week ago, then this comment with the ridiculous excuse that followed. What’s the point or message behind a 1 game suspension? This is incredibly disappointing and plain frustrating.”

Katz deleted the message not long after.

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The “malice at third” Katz referenced was a hard tag Donaldson applied to Anderson when the teams met last week, an attempt to push him off the bag with which Anderson took issue, hurting a benches-clearing dispute. Donaldson also stirred frustration on the South Side with comments made to White Sox ace Lucas Giolito about sticky stuff last year.

MLB said it issued the suspension after talking to the individuals involved and called Donaldson’s comment “inappropriate.”

“There is no dispute over what was said on the field,” MLB’s statement read. “Regardless of Mr. Donaldson’s intent, the comment he directed toward Mr. Anderson was disrespectful and in poor judgment, particularly when viewed in the context of their prior interactions.”

The White Sox were not scheduled to play Monday, meaning Anderson and his teammates were not readily available to local reporters for comment. (They host the Boston Red Sox on Tuesday night.) Yankees Manager Aaron Boone said Donaldson had not tested positive for the coronavirus by the time he addressed reporters Monday afternoon but that the 36-year-old was experiencing symptoms and was too ill to play Monday night.

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