O’Neill was scheduled to join the show to promote his book Swing and a Hit, co-authored by Jack Curry. The timing of the interview had added value, considering Yankees’ third baseman Josh Donaldson has been accused of a racist act after he called Chicago White Sox outfielder Tim Anderson “Jackie” over the weekend.
Following the game, White Sox manager Tony La Russa labeled the comment racist. Donaldson admitted to calling Anderson “Jackie,” but claimed it was a joke that derived after the White Sox outfielder referred to himself as “today’s Jackie Robinson” in a 2019 interview with Sports Illustrated.
The topic already dominated the first half of WFAN’s midday show. But with O’Neill on hold and Barber wrapping up a previous point, Tierney was informed off-air that they wouldn’t be allowed to ask about the Donaldson-Anderson controversy.
“We were supposed to have him on right now and he was on hold, OK,” Tierney said as he took the audience behind the scenes. “We were told, and Tiki, you don’t even know this because I was going through this while you were finishing up your thought on the air. We were told we can not ask anything about Donaldson and Anderson.”
“I said, ‘We can’t do the interview if that is the case.’ I said, ‘Please tell Paul, we will navigate this responsibly. We will not belabor it,” Tierney continued. “But I can’t have Paul O’Neill on the show after we spent an hour and 35 minutes talking about Tim Anderson and Josh Donaldson and not ask him about what transpired. So that sucks. No disrespect to Paul. I love him. Truly, my second all-time favorite Yankee. But we got a responsibility to the show.”
It’s the biggest story surrounding the New York Yankees, and an argument can be made for it being the biggest story in sports. Donaldson was not going to dominate the interview, but it was a subject that couldn’t be avoided when speaking to a former New York Yankees All-Star and current YES Network announcer.
O’Neill was going to represent his book more than he was the Yankees for this particular interview. But Tierney did not divulge whether it was O’Neill, the publishing company, or the Yankees who attempted to impose the interview restriction.
Prior to O’Neill nearly joining the show, Tierney and Barber both argued against claims that Donaldson’s comment to Anderson was racist.