White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson refuted New York Yankees third baseman Josh Donaldson's claims about the nature of their relationship on Tuesday night, shining new light on what transpired between the two over the weekend.
"He was trying to provoke me," Anderson said Tuesday before the White Sox faced Boston. "But he knew what he was doing."
Donaldson, by his own admission, called Anderson "Jackie" during Saturday's contest in a reference to Jackie Robinson, who integrated Major League Baseball in 1947 as a member of the Brooklyn Dodgers. Anderson and the White Sox took exception, and Donaldson was later confronted by catcher Yasmani Grandal, resulting in the benches clearing. No ejections were handed out, but MLB fined Donaldson and suspended him for a game on Monday afternoon.
Donaldson's explanation for his quip was that it was an inside joke between him and Anderson that dated back to 2019, when Anderson invoked Robinson's name as part of an interview he did with Sports Illustrated. Anderson pushed back on the idea that he was in on the joke on Tuesday, telling reporters that he had told Donaldson to leave him alone if that's how he intended to refer to him.
"He did say that, and I told him we never have to talk again," Anderson told ESPN, among other outlets. "I don't speak to you, you don't speak 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."
The quote Donaldson referenced comes from Steph Apstein's May 2019 feature of Anderson, in which he says: "I kind of feel like today's Jackie Robinson. 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."
It should be noted that Anderson's comments were printed in the middle of an article that otherwise details his feelings of isolation as a Black man playing in a sport that is by and large populated and managed by white men. As CBS Sports noted on Monday: ESPN's 2017 gender and race report card found that nearly 60 percent of players are white. Moreover, Dusty Baker (Astros) and Dave Roberts (Dodgers) are the only Black managers, and not a single current general manager or franchise owner is Black.
In the days since Donaldson's remark, several of Anderson's teammates have offered public support of him, Liam Hendriks. Additionally, Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge has said that Donaldson's remarks were "not the right thing to do" regardless of whether or not he felt they were a joke.
Donaldson, who is currently on the COVID-19 injured list, has appealed his suspension.