Charles B. Johnson, principal owner of the San Francisco Giants, is free to support financially the racist people or causes of his choice. And as someone who has followed the Giants and dumped a considerable amount of money on Giants tickets and merchandise for more than 40 years, I am free to divert my discretionary income elsewhere as long as Mr. Johnson is on the scene.
That’s how America works. That is how business works. I am hereby financially boycotting the team of my youth. But Johnson is an enabler of a bigot who has espoused support for voter suppression. He has given his money to a candidate who makes jokes about public lynchings, and I can’t support that.
Public election filings revealed recently that Johnson – the 85-year-old billionaire businessman – is financially supporting Cindy Hyde-Smith, a controversial U.S. Senator from Mississippi. In her campaign for the final undecided U.S. Senate seat, which has a runoff election Tuesday, she has been generating headlines for using public hanging metaphors. That’s not funny anywhere, but it’s particularly outrageous in Mississippi – the cradle of violence against black people.
On Nov. 11, a video of Hyde-Smith surfaced in which she expressed her fondness for a local rancher by saying, “If he invited me to a public hanging, I’d be there in the front row.”
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Fresno Bee
Hyde-Smith has also posed for photographs while wearing a replica of a hat worn by Confederate soldiers in the Civil War.
Her affinity for the shameful legacy of Jim Crow is so repulsive that companies such as Walmart, Pfizer, AT&T and Union Pacific – not exactly paragons of liberalism – have asked Hyde-Smith for their campaign contribution money back.
Which brings us back to Johnson. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Johnson and his wife Ann each contributed the maximum allowable federal contribution of $2,700 to Hyde-Smith.
Why should Giants fans – or anyone – care about how Johnson spends his money? Isn’t he free to contribute to any political campaign he likes? The answer to the second question is easy – yes, Johnson is free to contribute to any political candidate he likes. He enjoys the constitutional right to support Hyde-Smith or anyone else.
But Johnson does not enjoy a constitutional right of owning a major league baseball team that is free from the consequences of his political affiliations. Baseball is a business supported by discretionary income. People can choose to spend money on the Giants or to withhold their money from the Giants for whatever reason.
Here is mine: Ideas and attitudes in politics that were once condemned are now mainstream and acceptable: Voter suppression. Praise for white nationalists. Tacit acceptance of racist people, racist ideas, racist dog whistles.
We are either against these things, or we support them with our votes or, like Johnson, with our money. Or we just look the other way and make excuses or hollow rationalizations for tolerating what should be intolerable.
But I’m done with the arguments that what Hyde-Smith stands for – or what President Donald Trump stands for – is normal or common to politics. I’ve had it with “both sides are bad” false equivalencies when shameful comments like Hyde-Smith’s surface.
But more than anything else, I’ve had it with those who try to change the subject when they can’t handle looking in the mirror. Sometimes this impulse comes in the form of a question: “Are you saying all white people are racist?”
No, I’m not. But I’m saying if you don’t object to bigotry, then you support it. If you say that Johnson is a little known rich guy who happens to own the biggest piece of the Giants – and that has nothing to do with you – then you support whom he supports.
Throughout our history, the unacceptable has flourished when good people found it acceptable.
You can’t say that you don’t choose a side because denial aids and comforts the unacceptable.
So here is the factual, unvarnished record on Hyde-Smith: Trump is a big supporter. Hyde-Smith tried to pull a Trump ploy after her lynching comment went viral by attacking her opponent, former U.S. Agriculture Secretary Mike Espy, instead of coming correct and owning what she said.
But then again, she couldn’t really come correct because what she said is part of her appeal to some Mississippi voters. Just as Trump always fires up his base by targeting dark skinned people, Hyde-Smith is not going to repudiate her lynching joke because she knows some people voting for her like that sort of thing.
She has been talking this junk for years. When she first was elected to the Mississippi state legislature more than a decade ago, she proposed naming part of the state highway after Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederacy. She has spent her career praising and attempting to memorialize Mississippi’s Confederate roots.
“She was caught on video saying she would be fine with suppressing votes for college students,” wrote the Washington Post. She later said she was joking, just as Trump has followed unacceptable comments by saying he was joking. Meanwhile, concerns about voter suppression in Mississippi’s black communities – as in those of neighboring Georgia – are real and no laughing matter. Black folks have had to stand in lines for hours to vote, or their names have been disproportionately removed from voting rolls. This is 2018, more than 150 years after the end of the Civil War.
Are you OK with this? Johnson obviously is and here is what makes it even worse:
Johnson and his wife made the Hyde-Smith contribution nine days after the “public hanging” comment surfaced, according to the Chronicle.
Well, that says a lot. This comes after Johnson donated $1,000 last month to a political action committee that made racist robocalls in Arkansas.
I don’t really know what is in Johnson’s mind or heart, I only know what he has done. And what he has not undone. Those actions have consequences. I’m not going to add to his riches, even indirectly, by supporting the Giants with my money so he can turn around and support racists or racist causes. The Giants are a wonderful organization that has created at AT&T Park one of the best fan experiences anywhere. They have supported AIDS research for years. They raise money for many wonderful charitable causes.
But they do so by being a financially powerful organization and Johnson’s money is a big part of the equation. You can try to compartmentalize that all you want, but that’s what denial does– it paves the way for acceptance of the unacceptable.
I can’t do that, so I’m not spending my money on the Giants as long as Johnson and his odious political leanings are part of the picture. I love the Giants but not enough to go along with people who support hateful ideas that are suddenly resurgent because we are allowing them to be.
Count me out.