Josh Donaldson was suspended one game for "inappropriate comments" made to Chicago White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson on Saturday. Donaldson was also fined an undisclosed amount but is appealing the suspension. Just before the suspension was announced, Donaldson was placed on the COVID-19 injured list. Karma made quick work, it seems.
What I am going to say on this is right in the title of this piece and isn't controversial. A representative from MLB, senior Vice President for on-field operations Michael Hill stated it himself.
"MLB has completed the process of speaking to the individuals involved in this incident. There is no dispute over what was said on the field. Regardless of Mr. Donaldson's intent, the comment he directed toward Mr. Anderson was disrespectful and in poor judgment, particularly when viewed in the context of their prior interactions. In addition, Mr. Donaldson's remark was a contributing factor in a bench-clearing incident between the teams, and warrants discipline."
Why Can't People Say Something Is Racist?
It's right there in the quote from the MLB representative. This should no longer be a hot discussion. Unfortunately, people will fight as hard as they can to even acknowledge a racist act has occurred. Even the people we trust to cover the sport.
The "R" word, Mr. Heyman? Racist. Just say racist. Tony La Russa has received a lot of justified criticism for his handling of players, particularly Tim Anderson. La Russa is viewed as the template for "ok, boomer" during his tenure as the manager of the Chicago White Sox. Heyman should be concerned that La Russa is calling the incident racist but he isn't. Heyman is too frightened to use the word "racist," but not too afraid to defend Donaldson, a man with a checkered (at best) reputation.
Saying What It Is
I had an entire paragraph dedicated to Donaldson's negative reputation but it felt like the discussion was cheapened by it.
Donaldson does have a bad reputation as a baseball opponent but frankly, that shouldn't matter. Using "Jackie" or "Jackie Robinson" as a slur is ugly and racist and if a player with a spotless reputation said it it would still be ugly and racist. In my musician days, I'll never forget when our band was playing in a bar and people kept calling our keys player (who is black) "Ray" or "Ray Charles." No way can that be done without racism. It's unequivocal. People are jumping to Donaldson's defense and they need to understand something: intentions don't matter when the act or words themselves are racist. Tim Anderson himself did not find any of it funny and said the words from Donaldson were not appropriate. If someone tells you they are offended by something, the best response is not to be defensive but to apologize and make amends.
In the end, Anderson is such a tremendous baseball player that he got his revenge amidst the chorus of Yankee fans booing him or calling him, "Jackie." He hit a huge three-run home run that quieted the crowd as he (in different words) encouraged them to be silent.
The problem is that Anderson is the one who suffered the indignity. Anderson has been the one who has been told to stop playing the game in a fun manner that he does. Anderson shouldn't have to answer back against Donaldson's comments—we should.