Tensions had been simmering between Josh Donaldson and Tim Anderson since last week, but the feud took a turn Saturday when the White Sox claimed the Yankees slugger made a racist comment toward Anderson.
Donaldson admitted after the Yankees’ 7-5 win in The Bronx that he jokingly called Anderson “Jackie” — as he has in the past, he said — referring to a 2019 Sports Illustrated story in which Anderson described himself as “today’s Jackie Robinson.”
Though Donaldson insisted that the two had laughed about it before, Anderson, who is black, did not take it as a joke on Saturday. He said Donaldson asked him, “What’s up, Jackie?” multiple times.
“If something has changed from , my meaning of that is not any term of 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, whatever.”
But Anderson was not laughing on Saturday.
“I don’t play like that,” Anderson said. “That happened the first time he got on, and I let it go that time, and it happened again. It’s just uncalled for. … I’ll never sleep this off.”
By early Saturday evening, Major League Baseball was looking into the matter and speaking with all relevant parties, according to a source. It’s possible discipline could be handed down, depending on the results of that investigation.
Donaldson said he called Anderson “Jackie” in the first inning on Saturday in an attempt to diffuse the situation after tempers had flared between the two last weekend in Chicago. They jawed again Saturday in the third inning and the fifth, when White Sox catcher Yasmani Grandal had an extended confrontation with Donaldson at the plate that led to the benches and bullpens clearing.
“Obviously he deemed that it was disrespectful,” Donaldson said. “Look, if he did, I apologize. That’s not what I was trying to do by any matter. That’s really what happened.”
Before Donaldson gave his side of the story to reporters, Yankees manager Aaron Boone said he had heard “some talk” of what White Sox manager Tony La Russa alleged was a racist comment, but was still trying to get to the bottom of it.
Donaldson later said he explained the story behind calling Anderson “Jackie,” to some of his teammates. As for whether he would share that explanation directly with Anderson, Donaldson he’d be “more than happy to talk,” but wasn’t sure if the White Sox star would be willing to hear him out.
“There’s been a couple situations where he’s tried to get in my face and say other words to me,” Donaldson said. “It just keeps happening. That’s why after I slid into second base today [in the seventh inning], I just kind of looked at him after he said something to me and I’m like, ‘All right, I’ve had enough.’ I just laughed.”
When the final out of the third inning was made, Donaldson was rounding second base, but quickly stopped to talk with Anderson. A week removed from a dust-up between the two in Chicago, which had been set off by Donaldson appearing to push Anderson off the bag during a pickoff attempt, the two chirped at each other (Donaldson said Anderson threw profanities his way) before eventually going their separate ways.
That set the stage for the bigger confrontation in the fifth inning. As Donaldson walked to the plate, Grandal confronted him about the “Jackie” comment. Anderson soon ran in from his post at shortstop before the benches and bullpens cleared. The teams got face-to-face behind the plate, but the only action was Anderson getting dragged away from the scene by his teammates.
The umpires then issued warnings to both dugouts, though tempers seemingly settled down from there.
“I thought that was a joke between [Anderson] and I, because we’ve talked about it before,” Donaldson said. “As I said, let me mention again, he’s called himself Jackie Robinson. That’s why I thought it was funny between us.”
— Additional reporting by Zach Braziller