Josh Donaldson of the Yankees recently earned a one-game suspension for referring to Tim Anderson of the White Sox as “Jackie” during a recent game between the two teams. Donaldson’s comment precipitated a near-brawl between the two teams, and afterward Chicago manager Tony La Russa referred to Donaldson’s choice of words — a reference to Jackie Robinson, who broke MLB’s color line in 1947 — as “racist.”
In announcing the suspension of Donaldson, Michael Hill, MLB’s senior vice president for on-field operations, characterized Donaldson’s comment as “disrespectful and in poor judgment.”
For his part, Donaldson’s teammate Aaron Judge also took exception with the “Jackie” comment, albeit in somewhat less direct terms.
“I just don’t think it’s the right thing to do there,” he said. Here’s a look at Judge’s response:
He later said that Donaldson addressed the team regarding the controversy, but Judge again emphasized that Donaldson in his estimation made a poor decision:
Given how measured Judge typically is in his public comments, this amounts to a significant rebuke of Donaldson’s actions — one issued by perhaps the most visible current Yankees star.
As Judge indicates, Donaldson claimed that calling Anderson “Jackie” was part of a long-running inside joke between the two players, and that it stemmed from a 2019 Sports Illustrated article in which Anderson was quoted as saying the following:
“I kind of feel like today’s Jackie Robinson,” he says. “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 to where I need to change the game.”
A full reading of the SI piece, however, reveals that Anderson was speaking about the isolation he feels as a Black player in a predominantly white sport. Our own R.J. Anderson recently expanded upon this necessary context:
“It should be noted that Anderson’s quote came in the middle of an article where the main topic at hand was the isolation he feels as a Black man playing a sport that is predominantly played, managed, and governed by white men. According to ESPN’s 2017 MLB race and gender report card, white players comprise 57.5 percent of MLB rosters as opposed to 7.7 percent for African-American or Afro-Canadian players. Also all 30 club owners are white and all but two current general managers — Kim Ng (Asian-American) and Al Avila (Cuban) — are also white.”
Donaldson has appealed his one-game suspension.