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MLB suspends Josh Donaldson for 1 game for 'Jackie' comment aimed at Tim Anderson

NEW YORK (CBS Chicago/CBS New York/AP) — Major League Baseball suspended Josh Donaldson for one game Monday after the New York Yankees slugger made multiple references to Jackie Robinson while talking to White Sox star Tim Anderson during the weekend.

Donaldson also was fined an undisclosed amount for his actions Saturday at Yankee Stadium. The punishment was announced by Michael Hill, the senior vice president of on-field operations for MLB.

Donaldson has elected to appeal the penalty. Shortly before the suspension was announced, the Yankees said Donaldson had been put on the COVID-19 injured list.

"MLB has completed the process of speaking to the individuals involved in this incident. There is no dispute over what was said on the field. 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," Hill said in a statement.

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

AL East-leading New York is scheduled to open a three-game series against Baltimore on Monday night and then head to Tampa Bay for a four-game set beginning on Thursday.

Donaldson said he twice called Anderson by "Jackie" — as in Robinson, who famously broke MLB's color barrier in 1947 — during the Yankees' 7-5 win on Saturday. The benches and bullpens emptied as tensions escalated.

Anderson, one of baseball's leading Black voices and an All-Star shortstop, said it was a "disrespectful comment." White Sox manager Tony La Russa said it was racist, and Anderson agreed.

"Basically, it was trying to call me Jackie Robinson. Like, 'What's up, Jackie?'" Anderson said after Saturday's game.

Donaldson, who is white, said he had used the "Jackie" reference in the past with Anderson, who had said he viewed himself as a potential modern-day Robinson in a 2019 interview with Sports Illustrated.

"My meaning of that is not any term trying to be racist by any fact of the matter," Donaldson said Saturday.

Much of Robinson's legacy was defined by fighting racism that kept Black players out of MLB.

Anderson's White Sox teammates also laid into Donaldson's comment, saying inside jokes aren't traded between known nemeses.

"That's not how it went down in this clubhouse and I don't understand how, if he ever thought about it like that, it's just straight delusional," White Sox pitcher Liam Hendriks said. 

ESPN columnist William C. Rhoden said it's no laughing matter to those who know the history of this country.

"You have to take the temperature not just of that game. But, did you know that 10 innocent Black people got murdered in Buffalo? Did you think about that? Maybe this is not the time to joke about Jackie Robinson, who took all kinds of swings and arrows and had to turn the other cheek," Rhoden said. 

CBS 2's Marshall Harris caught up Sunday with Bally Sports MLB Insider Russell Dorsey, who said he though Donaldson should face repercussions for what he said to Anderson.

"I think this is one of those things where we live in a world – and Marshall, you know this as an African American reporter – microaggressions. And calling somebody Jackie, as in Jackie Robinson, is a microaggression – whether Josh Donaldson thought that was OK or not. You cannot call an African American player Jackie. One, especially because the big thing, 'Oh, he's called him that in the past,' as if that was OK. Two, you don't have inside jokes with people you don't like. Tim Anderson does not like Josh Donaldson – has not liked Josh Donaldson," Dorsey said. "So it's a situation that I'm not surprised by. People would think that the day and age we live in, players should know better; do know better – but they don't. And it's one of those things where, you know, everybody wears Jackie Robinson's number in April, but at the same time, now we're making a mockery of his legacy, so the whole situation is sad. Good on Yasmani Grandal for standing up for his guy in Tim Anderson – so I think that's big. Now we'll just see what the league does."

Anderson and Donaldson did not speak with the media on Sunday, when the White Sox swept a doubleheader at Yankee Stadium.

Anderson started the second game and was booed by fans, with some chanting "Jackie" at him. He hit a three-run homer in the eighth inning of a 5-0 win and then put his finger to his lips in a hushing gesture as he rounded the bases.

Yankees manager Aaron Boone said he talked to Donaldson after Saturday's game and believed his player's explanation for why he made the "Jackie" remark — but he also said he thought Donaldson shouldn't have used the term.

"I think with what's going on between the two players and between the two teams over the last week or two, I certainly understand how that would be sensitive and understand the reaction," Boone said. "I also understand Josh has been very forthcoming with the history of it and the context of it. So I don't believe there was any malicious intent in that regard."

"But this is just my opinion — (that's) somewhere he should not be going," he said.

Donaldson had clashed with the White Sox on multiple occasions before this weekend.

The benches also emptied on May 13 after Anderson shoved Donaldson following a hard tag in Chicago.

White Sox ace Lucas Giolito used an expletive in calling Donaldson a "pest" last year after Donaldson appeared to yell "Not sticky anymore!" after a first-inning homer for Minnesota — a reference to MLB cracking down on pitchers using sticky substances on baseballs.

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