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#pounditSunday, June 26, 2022

MLB sets bad precedent with Josh Donaldson suspension

Josh Donaldson taking batting practice

May 2, 2022; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; New York Yankees third baseman Josh Donaldson (28) takes batting practice against the Toronto Blue Jays at Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

MLB on Monday announced they were fining and suspending Josh Donaldson one game for his interaction with Tim Anderson on Saturday that left the White Sox infielder perturbed.

Donaldson called Anderson “Jackie” during the first inning of Saturday’s game between their teams. Anderson said after the game that he didn’t like the remark.

“Basically, it was trying to call me Jackie Robinson, like ‘what’s up, Jackie?’” Anderson told reporters after the game. “I don’t play like that. I don’t really play at all. I wasn’t really bothering nobody today, but he made the comment and it was disrespectful. I don’t think it was called for.”

White Sox manager Tony La Russa, who is known for being extremely protective of his players, called Donaldson’s remark “racist.” Anderson agreed that the comment was along racist lines.

Donaldson confirmed he made the remark but said it was in reference to a past interview where Anderson mentioned himself in comparison with Jackie Robinson.

“I kind of feel like today’s Jackie Robinson,” Anderson told SI in 2019. “That’s huge to say but it’s cool, many, because he changed the game, and I feel like I’m getting to a point where I need to change the game.”

Would Donaldson have ever referred to Anderson as “Jackie” had the White Sox shortstop not mentioned it first in that interview? That’s a good question to ask.

There is no question that Donaldson was needling Anderson. Donaldson seems to have no fear of speaking out and annoying people.

But there is a world of difference between needling/annoying an opponent versus making a racist comment. Donaldson says he was making a reference to Anderson’s past interview and using the White Sox shortstop’s own words against him. If annoying Anderson was his goal, especially after their previous interaction, he succeeded.

Donaldson has a very legitimate explanation for what he said. Even if Anderson or La Russa found the remark to be racist or along racist lines, that doesn’t mean they were.

If you can’t prove or automatically know the remark was racist, then a punishment is unfair. If suspensions were warranted any time a player talked a little trash, then half the players in the league would be suspended by the end of the month. There shouldn’t be ambiguity about it if you’re suspending a player for making racist comments. But in this case, most would agree that Donaldson’s comments were not racist, or at the very least, there needs to be much more evidence to prove he was being racist. We should not default to a baseline assumption that people are being racist.

Perhaps MLB gave Donaldson a 1-game suspension because they knew he would likely win an appeal and not have to miss any time at all. That way MLB could score some points with the race-obsessed fans and media to show their defense of Anderson, while Donaldson doesn’t end up missing a game.

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