New York fans could’ve demanded their third baseman to act like a professional. Instead they stooped to his level.
Josh Donaldson has a documented history of pestering players in the White Sox clubhouse. He caused issues in 2018 as a member of the Blue Jays. Created more tension in 2021 with the Minnesota Twins. And barely a week ago, he caused a bench-clearing shoving match after an aggressive pick-off attempt on Tim Anderson ended with the shortstop taking a knee to the head while barely avoiding a cleat spike to the hand.
Donaldson taunted Tim Anderson twice Saturday by calling him “Jackie” — as in Robinson, one of baseball’s most unimpeachable icons — in what the third baseman says was an “inside joke” but is an unmistakably racist remark any way you try to explain it.
Anderson called the comments disrespectful. His manager, Tony La Russa, called them outright racist. New York Yankees manager Aaron Boone said the taunt was “somewhere [Donaldson] should not be going.” MLB is investigating.
But the story doesn’t end there. The next day, many fans within Yankee Stadium booed Anderson and chanted “Jackie” during a nationally televised game on ESPN.
To say it’s the wrong side to take is an understatement. Booing a Black man who explained in no uncertain terms a day earlier he felt disrespected by the “joke”? In the middle of a spat that’s only connected to The Bronx because Donaldson happens to play there now?
This is not playful banter between fans and opposing players. Yankees fans have already crossed the line too many times this season to earn the benefit of the doubt. That Anderson beautifully responded to those chants with a three-run homer into right field doesn’t mean all is well. That he declined to speak to the media after Sunday’s 5-0 victory in New York is even more telling.
Because what should he have to answer for, really? What more could he say about Donaldson’s antics over the years that his teammates haven’t already made clear?
“A f****** pest,” Lucas Giolito said of Donaldson in 2021.
“This game went through a period of time a lot of those comments were made, and I think we’re way past that…I guess [Donaldson] lives in his own world,” Yasmani Grandal said after the incident on Saturday.
“Usually you have inside jokes with people you get along with — not people who don’t get along at all. So that statement right there was complete bull****,” Sox closer Liam Hendriks added on Sunday.
There’s four years of bad blood between Donaldson and the Sox. As much as Yankees fans may want to believe they’re defending their guy, this really has nothing to do with anyone in New York.
In fact, they’re just making this worse.
When one of the few Black players in MLB is telling reporters how disrespected he feels by Donaldson’s taunting, when multiple teammates are backing him up and when no players have publicly sided with Donaldson’s version of events, there is no justification for anyone to continue harassing Anderson.
Those fans are either chanting “Jackie” because they know it’s racist, or they’re chanting it because they believe Anderson was wrong to take it as racist and believe the proper way to respond is by continuing to inflict more pain.
Anderson first made a comparison between his experience in baseball and Jackie Robinson’s experience in a 2019 profile by Stephanie Apstein in Sports Illustrated — which is where Donaldson pulled his “inside joke” from. The story touched on the lonely existence of being Black in today’s MLB. How racism remains pervasive in the game’s highest levels. How he wants to inspire more Black youth to pick up the game that’s taken him to superstardom and how he wants kids to embrace their own personalities while doing so, not to assimilate.
(It shouldn’t be lost on anyone that this profile ran after MLB swiftly suspended Anderson for using the N-word after he was targeted with a pitch by the Royals Brad Keller. But the league has now waited three days to rule on Donaldson, despite managers of both teams saying the comments crossed the line.)
“I kind of feel like today’s Jackie Robinson,” Anderson said to Apstein. “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.”
This is the basis for Donaldson’s “inside joke” — that Tim Anderson feels isolated as a Black man, even as one of the best players in the league, and wants to make sure others don’t have a similar experience.
Yankees fans threw it all right back in his face because Donaldson wears the pinstripes. They could’ve demanded their own third baseman conduct himself like a professional.
Instead, they eagerly, and despicably, stooped to his level.