NEW YORK — Josh Donaldson said Wednesday he spoke to his Yankees teammates about the recent knockdown with White Sox Tim Anderson, adding that it was “hard to hear” Aaron Judge and manager Aaron Boone publicly criticize his call-up of Jackie Robinson’s name.
Donaldson – who is currently on the 10-day injured list with an inflamed right shoulder – twice used the barrier-breaking Hall of Famer’s name in reference to Anderson during a May 21 game at the Yankee Stadium, which the White Sox believed to be racially charged and sparked a bench clearing incident.
“I spoke to my teammates as soon as it happened and let them know about the deal, and let them know where my intentions were,” Donaldson said. “I think everyone responded to what I had to say. They know my heart, and that was not my intention at all. I feel bad for the Robinson family. I never wanted that ‘they feel [disrespected]. Their name should never be viewed in a bad light.
Donaldson received a one-game suspension and an undisclosed fine from Major League Baseball for what the league called “inappropriate comments.” Donaldson appealed the discipline and said he felt “comfortable” in the Yankees clubhouse, while remaining upset that White Sox manager Tony La Russa said the comment by Donaldson was “racist”.
“It’s a big thing and it’s extremely hurtful to have this accusation, not just myself but my family,” Donaldson said. “It’s definitely not who I am, by any means. After the confrontation, I made sure to talk to the guys and Boone [about], ‘Hey, that’s what happened. I don’t know why all of this suddenly got out of hand.
“I’ve had conversations with him in the past about it, like I said – like joking, making friendly jokes back and forth, and he took it that way. I know the reports have come out where he says, “Oh no, I didn’t.” Maybe we misinterpreted [sic] it differently. Now I know. I’m not going to talk to the guy about it.
Donaldson admitted he twice called Anderson by the name “Jackie”, saying he was referring to a 2019 Sports Illustrated interview in which Anderson, who is black, said he felt like “the Jackie Robinson of today” in terms of adding more fun to the game. Donaldson said he also made the “Jackie” comment to Anderson in 2019 when Donaldson was a member of the Braves.
“He said that, and I told him we were never going to have to talk again,” Anderson said on May 24. “I’m not talking to you, you’re not talking to me, if that’s how you want to refer to me. I know he knew exactly what he was doing, because I already told him.”
Following the bench clearing incident, Boone said “it’s, in my opinion, somewhere [Donaldson] shouldn’t go there. The judge said, “Joke or not, I just don’t think it’s the right thing to do there,” adding that Donaldson “made a mistake.”
Donaldson said there has been animosity between him and the White Sox in recent years, including a confrontation in a parking lot with Chicago pitcher Lucas Giolito last season when Donaldson was with the Twins. Tensions were high prior to the May 21 incident, resulting from a close play at third base in which Donaldson tagged Anderson, causing the runner to push.
“It was confusing because I spoke to a lot of their guys before this show and they all seemed fine,” Donaldson said. “When it comes to the field, hey, I shouldn’t talk to those guys anymore. I never want to be brought up in this light. It was hard.
Donaldson was first placed on the COVID-19 injured list and then given a cortisone injection in his right shoulder, which has been a problem since spring training. Donaldson said his shoulder felt much better; it is eligible to be activated on Thursday.