MLB Giants Face Boycotts Over Co-Owner Johnson's Political Donation
MLB Giants co-Owner Charles Johnson "sits atop the Giants’ food chain and therefore is a symbol" of the team, but his recent actions have put the organization in a "very sticky situation," according to Scott Ostler of the S.F. CHRONICLE. Johnson recently "contributed to two political campaigns with frighteningly racist overtones," and the Giants are now "being threatened with boycotts" by fans. Amos Brown, president of the NAACP's S.F. branch, is "calling for a local and national boycott of the Giants." Brown said that he "would call off the NAACP boycott if Johnson demands the return of his contribution" to the campaign of U.S. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.). Giants President & CEO Larry Baer in a statement yesterday said that the Giants "don’t condone racist language or behavior." Ostler: "In terms of responsible corporate behavior, that’s a pretty low bar, but OK. ... Can’t someone at the Giants’ HQ beg old Charlie to back off, or be more selective in who he supports? Apparently not." Baer is in a "tough spot" because he "basically runs the team." Ostler: "But I know I don’t give orders to my boss." If Johnson "chooses to stand on principle and on the strength of his political and moral convictions, then he should expect his team’s fans to do the same" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 11/27). In Sacramento, Marcos Breton writes despite Baer's "suggestions to the contrary, what’s objectionable about Johnson has nothing to do with simple political differences." Until the Giants "come correct on this issue -- until the organization repudiates Johnson by name," some are "not going to patronize the Giants as a business any longer" (SACBEE.com, 11/27).
KNACK FOR CONTROVERSY: In S.F., Wu & Schulman in a front-page piece note for the "second time in two months, the Giants issued a statement denouncing racism in the wake of a political donation by Johnson, a faithful Republican donor and longtime Bay Area investment-company executive and philanthropist." Johnson's attorney, Joe Cotchett, said that Johnson "rarely reads the political pages, mostly follows sports, and did not know about the 'public hanging' controversy" surrounding Hyde-Smith. The donations "stemmed from an entreaty from the Republican leadership to donate to candidates in tight races, which the Johnsons did." S.F.-based civil rights attorney John Burris "does not buy that line of thinking." Burris said, “That to me is not a valid justification to say that it was unknown, he didn’t know.” Burris added that campaigns "would not have approached Johnson unless 'he was aware of your philosophy and who you would want to give money to.'" Boycott organizers said that the goal is to "pressure Johnson to either relinquish his connections with the Giants or at least withdraw his support from Hyde-Smith." Cotchett said that he does not expect Johnson to divest from the team and said Johnson "loves the Giants." Johnson also "wanted his attorney to make it clear that all of his donations are personal and 'have no affiliation with the Giants or any other company'" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 11/27). NBCSPORTSBAYAREA.com's Ray Ratto wrote the Giants and MLB have been "confronted with a new paradigm, namely actually having to decide what level of outrage they can stomach for donating to campaigns of people whose views their customers find abhorrent, like the Hyde-Smiths of the system." It means that "pleading 'oops' and asking for a refund no longer is the easy way out" (NBCSPORTSBAYAREA.com, 11/26).
STATEMENT OF PURPOSE: Twitter commentators responded strongly to the statement issued by Baer on the donation issue. S.F. Chronicle's Ostler: "Where's Charles Johnson's statement/explanation?" NBC Sports Bay Area's Alex Pavlovic tweeted if fans are waiting for Johnson to sell his stake, "you’ll be waiting a long time." Popular Information's Judd Legum: "The Giants refer to Charles Johnson as one of '30 owners' but fail to acknowledge that he's the majority owner." Sports writer Molly Knight: "This is quite the ride from bragging to defensive to throwing up their hands. Saying nothing would have been better, IMO. ... Baer is right about one thing though: the SF Giants are a classy, inclusive organization that has been at the forefront of civil rights issues for decades. For that reason I don’t see how Johnson can remain the principal owner."