Giants’ Owner Called Out for Backing Racist Candidate

Fans call for a boycott after Charles B. Johnson donates $5,400 a Senate candidate whose 'public hanging' remarks have drawn charges of racism.

Stan Olszewski, SF Examiner

San Francisco Giants fans are crying foul over the team owner’s donation to an overtly pro-Confederacy U.S. Senate candidate who declared earlier this month that she would love to “be on the front row” for “a public hanging.” Giants principal owner Charles B. Johnson, the “wealthiest man in baseball” who is the ballclub’s largest investor and owns a 25 percent share of the team, is in hot water over donations to Mississippi senator Cindy Hyde-Smith, who has a troubling history of racist remarks and supporting segregation.

Johnson and his wife’s $5,400 contribution to Hyde-Smith was first noted Thursday morning by Popular Information writer Judd Legum. The Chronicle notes the donations came nine days after Hyde-Smith’s “public hanging” remarks surfaced. (Hyde-Smith was appointed to the Mississippi Senate seat in April, and is up for reelection Tuesday.)

Plenty of big donors demanded their donations be returned in the wake of Hyde-Smith’s comments, but the Giants owner is not one of them. This has Giants fans up in arms, and the San Francisco branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) urged fans to boycott the team at a Monday press conference.

“Charles Johnson’s financial support is an affront to all the African American families that have been victims of Mississippi’s historical legacy of voter suppression, physical violence, intimidation, racial and ethnic discrimination, among its other atrocities,” civil rights attorney John Burris said at the press conference.

For his part, Giants President Larry Baer put out statement saying that “In no way does the Giants organization condone any racist and hateful language and behavior by anyone,” and “Neither I nor anyone else at the Giants can control who any of our [more than 30] owners support politically, just as we cannot and should not control whom any of our employees support politically.”

This is not the first time that thousands of Johnson’s dollars have ended up supporting transparently racist causes. Just last month, ThinkProgress reported that Johnson donated $1,000 to the Black Americans for the President’s Agenda super PAC, helping bankroll an astonishingly bigoted radio ad where a supposedly African-American woman declares, “Girl, white Democrats will be lynchin’ Black folk again.”

At the time, Johnson put out a statement saying, “I had absolutely no knowledge that this donation would be used in this manner and I, like the Giants organization, strongly condemn any form of racism and in no way condone the advertisement that was created by this entity.” 

Update: Johnson has asked for his Hyde-Smith donation to be returned, according to the San Francisco Chronicle, and the NAACP San Francisco chapter has called off the boycott. “I have decided that Mr. Johnson’s statements condemning racism and requesting the return of his contribution to Senator-elect Cindy Hyde-Smith are sufficient positive steps and that the boycott is not further warranted at this time,” civil rights attorney John Burriss said in a statement. “I hope that Mr. Johnson and the Giants organization will be on guard to prevent contributions by its owners that undermine the goodwill and moral standing the Giants have in this community. As a long time Giants supporter and civil rights lawyer, I want the best for the team. But I will be watching.”

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