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Josh Donaldson Says ‘Jackie [Robinson]’ Comment to Tim Anderson Wasn’t Intended To Be Racist

Benches cleared during Saturday's Yankees-White Sox game and now we know why.
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NEW YORK — Josh Donaldson owned up to accusations from Tim Anderson and the White Sox after Saturday's game, doing his best to tell his side of the story.

Chicago's shortstop told reporters that Donaldson referred to him as Jackie Robinson, using the phrase “What’s up, Jackie?” multiple times during New York's 7-5 win. That, in large part, was a catalyst for tempers flaring later in the game as benches cleared during the fifth inning

Donaldson admitted that he did call Anderson "Jackie," but clarified that he meant it as a joke, saying he's done it before.

"In 2019, he came out with the interview and said that he's the new Jackie Robinson of baseball. Said he's gonna bring back fun for the game, right?" Donaldson explained. "In 2019, I played for Atlanta. We actually joked about that. I don't know what's changed. I've said it to him in years past, not in any manner than just joking around for the fact that he called himself Jackie Robinson."

Anderson told Sports Illustrated's Stephanie Apstein that he feels like "like today’s Jackie Robinson" in an interview in 2019.

"My meaning of that is not in any term trying to be racist, by any fact of the matter. It was just off of an interview with what he called himself," Donaldson added. "Obviously he deemed that it was disrespectful and look, if he did, I apologize. That's not what I was trying to do, by any matter."

Between innings early on during Saturday's game, Donaldson and Anderson exchanged words on the infield grass. Then, when the designated hitter walked up to the plate in the fifth, White Sox catcher Yasmani Grandal got up in Donaldson's face, sparking both benches to clear. 

Anderson was held back by multiple teammates and escorted to Chicago's dugout as the conflict quickly de-escalated. 

"What it seems like is they talked about it as a team and then he tried to confront me," Donaldson said. "I didn't know what he was talking about at the beginning. I'm like 'what are you talking about?' He's like, 'you know what you said.' 'Are you referring to me calling him Jackie?' I thought that was a joke between him and I, because we've talked about it before. And as I said, let me mention that again, he called himself Jackie Robinson. And that's why I thought it was funny between us."

Anderson, obviously, took exception. 

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“I don’t play like that. I wasn’t really bothering nobody today, but he made the comment and it was disrespectful. I don’t think it was called for. It was unnecessary,” Anderson told reporters, per NBC Sports Chicago. 

“It happened in the first—the first time he got on—and I spared him that time,” Anderson added. “Then it happened again, and it was just uncalled for. We don’t need to be playing like that.”

Anderson's manager Tony La Russa referred to Donaldson's comment as "racist."

This isn't the first time Donaldson and Anderson have had an altercation either. Last week in Chicago, Donaldson pushed Anderson as he attempted to tag him out on a play at third base. He later said he was making a "baseball play," inadvertently pushing the shortstop. Anderson jumped up and shoved Donaldson back, causing benches to clear. 

Again, as was the case on Saturday in the Bronx, no punches were thrown and no players were ejected. On Saturday, warnings were issued to both teams.

These two clubs are scheduled to play a doubleheader on Sunday, the final game between them this season. That is, unless they face off in the postseason down the road. 

Donaldson revealed that he had already spoken to some of his teammates about what transpired, trying to clear the air. He also reiterated that he's been trying to defuse the situation with Anderson and would be open to talking it out with Chicago's shortstop.

"I'm sure that he'll see this," Donaldson said. "I don't know. If he wants to talk, I would be more than happy to talk."

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