New York Yankees third baseman Josh Donaldson has been accused of making “racist” comments to Chicago White Sox outfielder Tim Anderson. But according to ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith, the term “racist” can’t be thrown around lightly.
During Saturday’s Yankees-White Sox game, Donaldson, who is white, called Anderson, who is Black, “Jackie,” referring to Jackie Robinson. White Sox manager Tony La Russa labeled the comment “racist” and Anderson later agreed.
Donaldson admitted to calling Anderson “Jackie,” but claimed it was a name he used for years and stemmed from the White Sox outfielder referring to himself as “today’s Jackie Robinson” in a 2019 Sports Illustrated article. The Yankees’ third baseman then followed his admission with the old “sorry if I offended you” line.
“Obviously, he deemed it disrespectful,” Donaldson said. “And look, if he did, I apologize.”
While the comment may have been disrespectful and even offensive, Stephen A. Smith wasn’t as quick as Tony La Russa to call the incident an act of racism.
“We are having a conversation about race,” Smith said Monday morning on ESPN’s First Take. “And I can’t sit here and tell you anything Josh Donaldson said was racist. I think that it’s actually wrong for people to attach racism or racist to Josh Donaldson today, off this incident.”
ESPN's Stephen A. Smith says members of the White Sox have to be careful when calling Yankees' Josh Donaldson racist because it takes away from real racism. pic.twitter.com/y7bdpzkS9C
— The Recount (@therecount) May 23, 2022
“Everybody ain’t racist, but there’s quite a few damn racists in this country,” Smith continued. “Ain’t no question about it. All I’m saying is, when you call somebody racist, I need to be able to look and go ‘yeah, yeah that’s true.’ There can’t be this kind of wiggle room because you dilute real pertinent racist issues and you take the profile away from real racists. That’s what you got to be careful of as a Black person.”
Smith has long been vocal about the need for racial equality in sports, specifically opining on the lack of Black representation among head coaches and executives in the NFL and NBA. On the MLB front, however, Smith’s comments on Shohei Ohtani last summer were counterproductive to promoting racial equality in baseball.
While Smith never shies away from calling out an act of racism in sports, he believes the accusations need to be irrefutable without any opportunity for denial.