NEW YORK (AP) — Yankees slugger Josh Donaldson was wrong to make a remark referencing Jackie Robinson when speaking to White Sox star Tim Anderson, New York manager Aaron Boone said Sunday.
A day after the comment called “racist” by Chicago manager Tony La Russa — an assessment that Anderson agreed with — Major League Baseball continued to investigate the incident.
Anderson, one of baseball’s leading Black voices and an All-Star shortstop, and Donaldson, who is white, did not speak to reporters before the start of Sunday’s doubleheader.
Boone said he talked to Donaldson after Saturday’s game and believed his player’s explanation for why he said it — but he also said he thought Donaldson shouldn’t have used the term.
“I think with what’s going on between the two players and between the two teams over the last week or two, I certainly understand how that would be sensitive and understand the reaction,” Boone said. “I also understand Josh has been very forthcoming with the history of it and the context of it. So I don’t believe there was any malicious intent in that regard.”
“But this is just my opinion — (that’s) somewhere he should not be going,” he said.
Donaldson said he twice called Anderson by “Jackie” — as in Robinson, who famously broke MLB’s color barrier in 1947 — during the Yankees’ 7-5 win. The benches and bullpens emptied as tensions escalated.
“He just made a, you know, disrespectful comment,” Anderson said after the game. “Basically, it was trying to call me Jackie Robinson. Like, ‘What’s up, Jackie?'”
Donaldson said he was trying to defuse the situation. The benches also emptied on May 13 after Anderson shoved Donaldson following a hard tag in Chicago.
Donaldson said he’s used the “Jackie” reference in the past with Anderson, who had said he viewed himself as a potential modern-day Robinson in a 2019 interview with Sports Illustrated.
“My meaning of that is not any term trying to be racist by any fact of the matter,” Donaldson said Saturday.
“Obviously, he deemed it disrespectful,” he said. “And look, if he did, I apologize. That’s not what I was trying to do by any manner and that’s what happened.”
White Sox catcher Yasmani Grandal confronted Donaldson before a fifth-inning at-bat, leading to a benches-clearing incident in which no punches were thrown and no one was ejected.
“In this clubhouse, we have TA’s back in everything,” White Sox closer Liam Hendriks said. “And that was just a completely unacceptable thing.”
Hendriks, who is white, used an expletive in saying he didn’t believe Donaldson’s explanation.
“And then trying to whip it out as being an inside joke? No, that’s …,” he said.
Boone said he spoke Saturday to MLB senior vice president of on-field operations Michael Hill, who let him know the league would investigate the matter.
“Whenever they reach a conclusion, I’m sure you’ll hear about it,” La Russa said.
A pair of brown shoes sat in front of Donaldson’s locker, located diagonally from a display honoring Robinson and including his quote “A life is not important except the impact it has on other lives” hanging above the entrance to the Yankees’ clubhouse.
Grandal appeared briefly in the White Sox’s clubhouse but didn’t speak to the media.
Anderson, with the locker next to Grandal’s, sat at his stall, wearing a T-shirt that said “Family.”
Anderson was originally in the lineup for the opener before being scratched by La Russa, who said he wanted the shortstop to play only one game and that appearing in the second game “… preserves his body better than playing in the heat.”
Grandal started the opener at catcher and batted sixth. Donaldson started at third base and batted fifth. He also received the usual “Donaldson” chant from the Bleacher Creatures in the top of the first.
Hendriks, who said he didn’t get along with Donaldson when the two were teammates with the Toronto Blue Jays in 2015, wasn’t sure if there would be additional issues Sunday, which marked the final scheduled meetings of the season between the Yankees and White Sox.
“We’ll wait and see,” Hendriks said. “I think the way it left off, I don’t think it’s ever going to be necessarily complete. This is a yearslong thing between us and that’s something that I don’t think’ll ever necessarily die down. But I think it’s something that MLB should handle on MLB’s end.”