Josh Donaldson has apologized to Jackie Robinson’s wife and family for using the barrier-breaking Hall of Famer’s name in reference to Tim Anderson last week, saying Robinson “was a true American hero” and that he holds his name “in the highest regard.”
Donaldson issued his apology as part of a statement to MLB.com on Thursday, three days after the New York Yankees’ third baseman was suspended one game by Major League Baseball for his “inappropriate comments” to Anderson the previous weekend.
Donaldson admitted to calling Anderson “Jackie” — a reference to Robinson, who broke MLB’s color barrier in 1947 — in the first inning during Saturday’s game between the Yankees and Chicago White Sox. The former MVP apologized after the game, saying he meant no disrespect and that he was joking with Anderson, who is Black.
Donaldson reiterated those sentiments in his statement Thursday before apologizing to Rachel Robinson and her family.
“I would also like to apologize to Mrs. Rachel Robinson and the Jackie Robinson family for any distress this incident may have caused,” Donaldson said. “Jackie was a true American hero and I hold his name in the highest regard.”
Anderson said Saturday he was offended by Donaldson’s comment, calling it “disrespectful” and “unnecessary.”
“First and foremost, I have the utmost respect for what Tim Anderson brings to the game of baseball,” Donaldson said in his statement Thursday. “I stated over the weekend that I apologized for offending Tim and that it was a misunderstanding based on multiple exchanges between us over the years.
“My view of that exchange hasn’t changed and I absolutely meant no disrespect. In the past, it had never been an issue and now that it is, we have a mutual understanding.”
Donaldson, who is white, said the “Jackie” comment was in reference to a 2019 interview with Sports Illustrated in which Anderson described himself as feeling like “today’s Jackie Robinson” in how he’s “getting to a point where I need to change the game.” Donaldson said it was a reference about which he has “joked around” with Anderson in the past.
Anderson said Tuesday that he and Donaldson haven’t had a relationship since the first time he called him “Jackie” back in 2019.
“He did say that, and I told him we never have to talk again,” Anderson recalled. “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.”
Anderson claims while Donaldson played for the Minnesota Twins, the two had no contact. But that changed after Anderson’s hard slide into Donaldson at third base on May 13, which prompted a benches-clearing incident during which the two players had words. Donaldson and Anderson crossed paths again this past weekend in New York, leading to Donaldson calling Anderson “Jackie” once again.
Donaldson, who also was fined an undisclosed amount, is appealing the one-game suspension. He will be eligible to play for the Yankees until the appeal process is completed. Shortly before the suspension was announced Monday, the Yankees said Donaldson had been put on the COVID-19 injured list.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.