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June 27, 2018 01:57 PM

MLB great Sammy Sosa is defending himself against those who have criticized his significantly lighter skin tone following his retirement from baseball, calling the negative comments “garbage.”

Sosa, who was born in the Dominican Republic, entered the Major Leagues back in 1989 as a member of the Texas Rangers, and later joined the Chicago Cubs. But it wasn’t until he went on a legendary home run chase against St. Louis Cardinals’ player Mark McGwire in 1998 that he became a household name across the country.

But since he stepped back from MLB, Sosa’s appearance has changed dramatically. Today, Sosa’s once dark brown skin is now, shockingly, almost completely white.

Bryan Bedder/Getty

In a new interview with Sports Illustrated that took place at the Burj Al Arab Jumeriah hotel in Dubai (he now lives in the United Arab Emirates), Sosa pointed at the luxury around him as the reason why he doesn’t care what critics say about him.

Sosa in 1995
John Cordes/Icon Sportswire/Getty

“Look at what I am today,” Sosa said. “This is my life, and I don’t take garbage from nobody. I do whatever I want.”

Sosa previously admitted his appearance shift is the result of skin bleaching cream.

“It’s a bleaching cream that I apply before going to bed and whitens my skin tone,” Sosa told Univision in 2009. “It’s a cream that I have, that I use to soften [my skin], but has bleached me some. I’m not a racist, I live my life happily.”

But critics and those on social media have been vocal about their surprise to the change over the years, and regardless of Sosa being open about how he is going about the whitening, many attacked him for why he is doing it in the first place.

Sosa’s son, 21-year-old Sammy Sosa Jr., was once an MLB-prospect but was bullied as a child after his father was accused of using performance-enhancing drugs as a player. Junior told SI that he was constantly called a “steroid baby” while growing up, but didn’t tell his father what he had endured.

Now, Junior said he doesn’t speak with his father about what people say online about his skin.

“It doesn’t affect him, but I’m sure he feels a certain way,” Junior told SI. “Like, ‘Man, I gave so many years and so much hard work for you guys, and now you want to undermine all that because of some decisions I’m making — some personal decisions that don’t affect you at all?’ “

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Junior also admitted that his father doesn’t open up much about most things, and he remains a mystery in many aspects.

“He’s a really closed-off person, even with me,” Junior says. “He doesn’t mean to be. There are some things I don’t know about my dad that I wonder about.”

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