Aaron Boone says Josh Donaldson shouldn’t have made ‘Jackie’ comment; Yankees trying to diffuse tension in aftermath

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Josh Donaldson sparked a benches-clearing incident on Saturday after calling White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson “Jackie,” meaning Jackie Robinson. Aaron Boone spent the rest of that day and some time before the two teams’ next game Sunday, getting “to the bottom of this.”

“We’re trying to do as much as we can to diffuse it and just play ball,” Boone said Sunday. “I talked with JD [Davis] and a few other players to address this and get to the bottom of this, get the context and the history of this. With what’s gone on between the two players and the two teams over the last week or two, I certainly understand why that would be sensitive.”

Boone spent pretty much the entirety of the media session talking about Donaldson. Rather than immediately siding with his player as many managers would do, Boone made it clear that he did not support his third baseman calling a Black player “Jackie,” even if it was meant as some sort of strange joke.

“I don’t believe there was any malicious intent in that regard,” Boone said. “This is just somewhere, that in my opinion, he should not be going.”

The skipper does not believe any more on-field issues will come of it. Both teams emptied their benches and bullpens when Chicago catcher Yasmani Grandal confronted Donaldson during Saturday’s game.

“I understand the reaction, but Josh has been very forthcoming with the history of it and the context of it,” Boone said. The context he was referring to was Anderson calling himself a modern Jackie Robinson during a 2019 interview, which Donaldson said he was referencing. Boone readily acknowledged that Donaldson’s comments were “not a great thing” but knowing the history of Anderson’s past comments changed the context for him.

“When I first heard the name Jackie, I was really taken aback,” Boone stated. “Frankly, I was upset about it myself. When you hear the story of it — again, I don’t think [Donaldson] should say that even if there is a perceived relationship or whatever — but the original story of where it was born out of, and a few years of saying that, I’m less taken aback by it at that point. I sit here as a white guy and that it did change the context for me, I also understand how it can be offensive and upsetting. But since it was born out of that article, it does to me change the context.”

Boone said he spoke with Michael Hill, Major League Baseball’s senior vice president of on-field operations, following the incident. Hill, who is Black, told Boone that the league would be doing an investigation. Within the Yankees’ clubhouse, a few conversations took place as well.

“He’s talked to guys individually,” Boone said of Donaldson. “He and I and a few others talked in my office together as well. I’m sure he’ll continue to do that.”

Boone said he got the sense that this will not create any sort of lingering tension in the clubhouse and repeatedly mentioned how forthcoming Donaldson has been.

“This is sensitive. You gotta read the room in that sense,” Boone said, later adding that he wants Donaldson to “rein it in” and wishes that he was more aware of how serious it is to invoke Jackie Robinson, who he called “the face of civil rights” and “one of the most important figures in our history.”


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