NEW YORK (AP) — Josh Donaldson has apologized to the wife and family of Jackie Robinson for referencing the pioneering Black baseball player in remarks that led to a confrontation with Chicago White Sox star Tim Anderson.
The New York Yankees third baseman was suspended for one game and fined on Monday by Major League Baseball. The league said Donaldson's comment on Saturday was "disrespectful and in poor judgment." Donaldson has appealed the discipline.
"First and foremost, I have the utmost respect for what Tim Anderson brings to the game of baseball," Donaldson said in a statement Thursday issued through his agency, MVP Sports. "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.
"I would also like to apologize to Mrs. Rachel Robinson and the Jackie Robinson family for any distress this incident may have caused. Jackie was a true American hero and I hold his name in the highest regard."
Donaldson said after Saturday's game that he twice called Anderson by "Jackie." Robinson broke MLB's barrier in 1947. Benches and bullpens emptied as tensions escalated.
Anderson has said Donaldson was "trying to provoke me" with the comment. White Sox manager Tony La Russa called Donaldson's comment last weekend "racist," adding, "That's as strong as it gets." Anderson agreed with La Russa: "Same, along that same line, yeah."
Anderson, an All-Star and the 2019 AL batting champion who is among the leading Black voices in baseball, told Sports Illustrated in 2019: "I kind of feel like today's Jackie Robinson ... because he changed the game, and I feel like I'm getting to a point to where I need to change the game."
Donaldson, the 2015 AL MVP, said that early in Saturday's game, "I called him Jackie." The white ballplayer also said he has "joked around" with Anderson in the past using the same reference and mentioned that Sports Illustrated interview.
Anderson said after a brief conversation in 2019 in which Donaldson called him "Jackie," he told Donaldson: "We don't have to talk again. I won't speak to you, you don't speak to me if that's how you're going to refer to me."