Josh Donaldson fined, suspended over 'Jackie' Robinson comment aimed at Tim Anderson

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MLB has fined and suspended New York's Josh Donaldson one game for an incident on Saturday involving Chicago's Tim Anderson that ignited both the Yankees and White Sox benches to clear for a tussle near home plate.

After the game, Anderson told reporters that Donaldson repeatedly called him "Jackie" in reference to Jackie Robinson, a practice that White Sox manager Tony La Russa derided as "racist."

Donaldson admitted to calling Anderson "Jackie" and having done so repeatedly since 2019. He denied any racist intent, telling reporters on Saturday that he was "just joking around" based on Anderson comparing himself to Robinson in a 2019 interview.

MLB: Donaldson's remark 'disrespectful and in poor judgment'

An MLB statement on Monday stated that Donaldson's intent wasn't a factor in handing down the suspension, declaring the commentary "disrespectful and in poor judgment."

"There is no dispute over what was said on the field," MLB's statement reads. "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.

"In addition, Mr. Donaldson’s remark was a contributing factor in a bench-clearing incident between the teams, and warrants discipline."

Donaldson is appealing the penalty.

May 13, 2022; Chicago, Illinois, USA;  Chicago White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson (7) talks with New York Yankees third baseman Josh Donaldson (28) after having an altercation during the first inning at Guaranteed Rate Field. Mandatory Credit: Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports
May 13, 2022; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Chicago White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson (7) talks with New York Yankees third baseman Josh Donaldson (28) after having an altercation during the first inning at Guaranteed Rate Field. Mandatory Credit: Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports

What happened

Both benches cleared in the fifth inning of New York's 7-5 win after White Sox catcher Yasmani Grandal confronted Donaldson about his comments at home plate. Anderson's White Sox teammates restrained him during the fracas that didn't escalate beyond pushing and shoving.

At the time, it wasn't clear what sparked the incident. After the game, La Russa told reporters that Donaldson made "a racist comment" directed at Anderson.

"He made a racist comment, Donaldson, and that's all I'm gonna say," La Russa said.

Anderson then revealed that Donaldson repeatedly called him "Jackie," calling the commentary "disrespectful."

"He just made a disrespectful comment," Anderson said. "Basically was trying to call me Jackie Robinson, like 'what's up Jackie?' I don't play like that. I don't really play at all. I wasn't really gonna bother nobody today. But he made the comment, and it was disrespectful. I don't think it was called for."

Donaldson later acknowledged that he called Anderson "Jackie" but that he meant it as a joke based on an interview Anderson gave to Sports Illustrated in 2019.

"All right, so first inning, I called him 'Jackie,'" Donaldson told reporters. "[In] 2019, he came out with an interview said that he's the new Jackie Robinson of baseball. He's gonna bring back fun to the game. [In] 2019 when I played for Atlanta, we actually joked about that on the game.

"I don't know what's changed — and I've said it to him in year's past. Not in any manner than just joking around for the fact that he called himself Jackie Robinson. If something has changed from that, my meaning of that — has not any term trying to be racist by any fact of the matter. It was just off of an interview of what he called himself."

Anderson's initial "Jackie Robinson" comment

Anderson told Sports Illustrated in 2019 that he felt like "today's Jackie Robinson" because he feels like he needs to "change the game."

"I kind of feel like today’s Jackie Robinson,” Anderson said in 2019. “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."

Anderson is candid with his thoughts on baseball. He called the sport "boring" in 2019 while criticizing its unwritten rules.

Donaldson, Anderson have history

Saturday's incident took place just days after Anderson and Donaldson exchanged tense words on May 13 during a physical play at third base in a previous White-Sox Yankees series. Anderson slid back into third base on a pickoff play from home plate while Donaldson covered. Donaldson pushed Anderson off the bag during his slide.

The pair were separated by the third-base umpire after they exchanged words.

The Yankees and White Sox completed their three-game series on Sunday and aren't scheduled to face off again during the regular season.

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