Josh Donaldson said Aaron Judge’s criticism of him in the aftermath of Donaldson’s admission that he called White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson “Jackie” was difficult to take.
“It was definitely tough to hear that,” Donaldson said Wednesday. “I talked to my teammates as soon as it happened and let them know what my intentions were. I think everybody responded to what I had to say. I think they know my heart. That’s not my intention.”
Donaldson admitted to repeatedly calling Anderson, who is black, “Jackie.” Donaldson said it was an attempt to defuse tensions between the two after they nearly came to blows when the teams met in Chicago last month.
“Joke or not, I don’t think it’s the right thing to do there,” Judge said last month of Donaldson’s interaction with Anderson.
Asked Wednesday about Donaldson’s status with the team, Judge said, “[Donaldson’s] always welcome. He’s going to be a big part of us winning the World Series if we’re going to get to where we need to be. Josh Donaldson’s going to be a big part of it, that’s why we went out and acquired him.”
But Judge also noted that the two haven’t spoken in person since the incident, though they have talked on the phone.
“That’s something we’ll handle internally and get it figured out,” Judge said. “He’s a big leader in this room, and a lot of guys look up to him. That was a tough situation he’s been in, and he’s on the injured list now and he’s coming back from that.”
Judge blamed the lack of communication on the fact Donaldson just returned from the COVID-19 injured list, but added, “We’ve got plenty of time.”
Donaldson said despite the criticism, he still feels “comfortable” in the Yankees’ clubhouse, but is still stung by the fact it was considered a racial statement.
“It’s extremely hurtful … to have that accusation, not just for myself, but for my family,” Donaldson said. “That’s definitely not who I am.”
He also said he and Anderson haven’t spoken since the May 22 incident. He continued to insist he and Anderson had been on the same page since Donaldson began calling him “Jackie” in the wake of the 2019 Sports Illustrated article in which Anderson referred to himself as “today’s Jackie Robinson.”
“It was friendly banter, back and forth and he took it as that,” Donaldson said. “I know reports say [Anderson said] no. Maybe we interpreted it differently.”
Donaldson added that despite his reputation with some around the league, he believes he has been well-received.
“I pride myself on being a good teammate,” Donaldson said. “Everywhere I’ve [gone], every organization I’ve been a part of, minus Oakland, has offered me extensions and wanted me to stay. … Everywhere I’ve [gone]I’ve won, and part of winning is having good team chemistry.”
Controversy, though, has followed Donaldson throughout his career.
And this is just the latest example.
“I don’t know why it got to that point,” Donaldson said of why the situation with Anderson escalated. “We’ve talked and joked on the field. Tim is a competitor and plays with a chip on his shoulder. To me, looking back on it, a lot of it stemmed from the play at third base [in Chicago],
That’s when Donaldson, a week earlier, knocked Anderson off the bag in a play at the base, which also led to the players nearly coming to blows.
“I tried to get out in front of it [by saying], ‘My bad’ during the game,” Donaldson said. “I felt I had hashed it out, but the first game of the series at home, I tried to extend an olive branch saying, ‘Let’s clear the tension.’ It had nothing to do with trying to bring him down or a race situation. That’s not my intent. But talking to guys, I shouldn’t have put myself or my team in that situation.”
Donaldson said he’s appealing his one-game suspension because he didn’t agree with the decision that led to the ban.
“My intentions weren’t what they were blown out to be,” Donaldson said. “A big part of [the suspension] was [based on the fact] I incited the benches clearing when that was like four insides after [he and Anderson jawed with each other], I don’t know how I was inciting anything. I walked up to home plate. And the catcher [Yasmani Grandal] confronted me at that time. I don’t know how that was my prerogative that they decided they wanted to clear the benches. In my opinion, I didn’t do that.”
And he said there was nothing racial about his “Jackie” term.
“I do feel bad for the Robinson family,” Donaldson said. “I never want them to feel their name should ever be regarded in a bad light.”
Additional reporting by Mark W. Sanchez