Ethics Dunce: Major League Baseball, As Usual

The alternate headline would be “Now THIS is pandering!”

As discussed here, White Sox star shortstop Tim Anderson, an African-American, cried “Racism!” because Yankee third baseman Josh Donaldson mockingly called him “Jackie” during the last game between the teams, nearly provoking a “bench-emptying on-field brawl,” as it is typically called, that, also typically, never involved any actual fighting. By “Jackie” Donaldson was sarcastically referencing an ill-considered interview Anderson once gave in which he immodestly compared himself to the color-line shattering Hall of Famer. Needless to say (I hope) calling a black player “Jackie” after he has made an ass of himself by such a self-glorifying comparison isn’t racist. The proper term is “well-deserved.”

I wrote in the post, “Baseball has been a full participant in The Great Stupid, so don’t bet against it punishing Donaldson for “sarcasm that heightens racial sensitivities,” or something.” Bingo! That’s exactly what MLB did, setting a new high (low?) for weenie-ism and race pandering.

Now get this: today the game’s brass fined that mean ol’ Donaldson and suspended him for one game for “inappropriate comments.” Here’s the official blather:

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.

Has anyone in the New York offices of Major League Baseball ever heard of “precedent”? “Disrespectful” on-field comments are now suspension-worthy? I can read lips well enough to have witnessed players calling opposition players “fuckhead” and other less than reverent names many times. These are all banned now? Trash-talking will be punished now?

Meanwhile, the statement implies that intent doesn’t matter. This makes on-field banter like sexual harassment: it’s up to the victim whether words are actionable or not. It doesn’t matter if calling someone “Jackie’ isn’t racist by any logical standard: if a black player is hyper-sensitive, looking for micro-aggressions, or, what I suspect will be even more common, just trying to get a white player in trouble, he can guarantee an opposing player’s suspension by claiming he felt racially attacked, and MLB won’t do anything but nod obediently.

Furthermore, whoever was involved in this idiotic decision doesn’t comprehend basic ethics and the concept of moral luck. How is it Donaldson’s fault if a non-racist bit of sarcasm moves the other team to almost start a fight in support of the jack-ass would-be Jackie Robinson who’s race-obsessed?

But wait—there’s more! The puny one-game suspension speaks for itself, and what it says is, “We know “Jackie” isn’t racist and that Anderson is full of it, but he’s black, a star and a jerk, and if we don’t sort-of, kind-of side with him this is likely to blow up into a race thing that baseball doesn’t need right now. So we’re giving Donaldson a teeny slap on the wrist, hoping that he rolls over and take one for the game.”

Brilliant. Except that the one-game suspension is so obviously a ploy that it isn’t satisfying baseball’s race-baiters at all. “What’s the point or message behind a 1 game suspension?” tweeted the White Sox pitching coach. “This is incredibly disappointing and plain frustrating.”

And he’s white!

Major League Baseball will placate no one with its cowardly, unfair action against Donaldson. What it should have said was,

Major League Baseball has a no-tolerance policy toward racist words and actions on the part of its players on or off the field. However, after speaking with all parties, we have determined that Mr. Donaldson neither intended such conduct and engaged in it, however Mr. Anderson perceived it at the time. Players are inevitably going to engage in language and rhetoric in the heat of competition that may be excessive and ill-considered, but we expect the professionals on the field to understand that and not to react emotionally or begin making accusations that reflect poorly on the game. We consider the matter closed.

Instead, they tried to satisfy all parties and agendas.

They will regret it.

12 thoughts on “Ethics Dunce: Major League Baseball, As Usual

  1. It’s J-name privileges. A black baseball player can call himself the J-name but that doesn’t mean a white baseball player can then call that same person the J-name. …Okay, yeah, this is stupid. I hate it when people look for reasons to get offended. That just creates problems where there don’t need to be any.

    I’d agree that it would have arguably been in poor taste, if not an indication of racism, to sarcastically compare a random black player (i.e. one who didn’t publicly make the comparison himself) to Jackie Robinson just because of their shared approximate skin color. Blurring people with similar backgrounds together is generally boorish and can certainly feed into racism and other forms of bigotry. It’s possible to do it innocently and in good humor but everyone in the conversation should trust each other and/or be having a good time, and they need to be aware of why that’s important.

    I prefer to just compare people to other people who have similar methods, goals, personalities, or character traits. Some of that overlaps with background, but it doesn’t have to. If I sarcastically refer to someone as “Einstein,” they don’t have to be male or German or Jewish. It’d probably just be because they’re professing some something nonsensical take on relativity. (I consider it too cliché to use “Einstein” as a byword for generalized intelligence. To me, it’s just a reminder that humanity at large doesn’t know as much as they should about how intelligence works.)

  2. So now “Jackie” has a chance to become the new racial epithet.


    Funny how the Commodores’ “Night Shift” ran through my mind this morning. I really like that song, but if I get to the verse that begins “Jackie…” (I think an actual reference to Jackie Robinson, not the Tim-Anderson-wannabe), am I now singing in a racist manner? Do I risk a one-game suspension?…a fine?…jail time? If we have any additional grandkids, is “Jackie” now a restricted name, since genetics have conspired to make our kids lighter-skinned (though still not white)?

    I had a small hope that MLB would somehow rise above the stupidity. I hoped in vain, though I should have realized it after last year’s All-Star-game idiocy.

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