For as much criticism as New York Yankees manager Aaron Boone has received for his sometimes lifeless and nondescript postgame interviews, he nailed the game’s most recent controversial topic on the head.
Long after the benches cleared on Saturday afternoon during the Yankees-White Sox game, it was revealed Josh Donaldson had said something offensive to Tim Anderson, which immediately created the most undesirable headlines for any team to endure.
Anderson said that Donaldson called him “Jackie,” obviously referring to Jackie Robinson. This was based on a 2019 interview the White Sox star conducted with Sports Illustrated in which he compared himself to the Hall of Famer. Anderson cited how he’s been tasked with changing the modern day game as it pertains to how black players are perceived, while their participation in MLB continues to dwindle.
This ended up being Boone’s first big test in addressing the media this year, since the first six weeks of the team’s season has been nearly flawless … and he moved the discourse along in a positive and constructive manner.
Boone’s no stranger speaking on race relations, either. He spoke on the rising tensions in the United States after the response from George Floyd’s murder in 2020 and how it made him feel as a father of two black sons (he has two adopted sons from Haiti).
Faced with another troubling topic, Boone played it perfectly. He said his own player in Donaldson was in the wrong, showed support for Anderson, and didn’t go too far to either extreme that would ignite more outrage from the folks quick to call Donaldson a racist and the others who were equally quick to blindly defend Donaldson’s actions.
Yankees manager Aaron Boone handled the Josh Donaldson-Tim Anderson beef
Once White Sox manager Tony La Russa claimed Donaldson’s comment was “racist,” it resulted in a slippery slope that created a lot of knee-jerk reactions that didn’t exactly allow anyone to properly discuss or understand what had happened.
This incident required a more nuanced conversation to get to the bottom of why Donaldson’s behavior was indeed wrong without tar-and-feathering the Yankees’ slugger to distract us from what was actually important.
Whether you believe Donaldson’s explanation or not (in the end, it doesn’t really matter because he was still wrong to even make the reference), what he did was mock Anderson in an attempt to be a pest and get under his skin. He’s done this with countless players in the past, as Sox closer Liam Hendriks revealed not-so-eloquently before Sunday’s doubleheader.
Donaldson should know better, but as has been evident over the last decade or so, many of those not in someone like Anderson’s shoes don’t … and sometimes it’s not their fault. It’s just the way society may have conditioned that individual to think or act. As a result, behavior and comments with racial undertones or insinuations persist because there’s been a further divide rather than tough, emotional discussions with relevant historical context. The timeline gets flooded with quotes and headlines that don’t tell the entire story and continue to push everyone deeper into their camps.
Boone didn’t double down in Donaldson’s favor. He held his guy accountable without running him out of town. He didn’t discount Anderson’s claims or feelings. He amplified them and made it clear there’s no place for Donaldson’s behavior in the game, regardless of what the intent was.
Unless there’s clear hurtful or malicious intent, the best result anybody can get from a situation like this is to make the person offended feel better and supported while ensuring the offender learns from his/her actions. Boone did just that and should be commended for it, since he was in the toughest position as the opposing manager.