Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith

Sarah Warnock, Clarion Ledger

Giants Face Backlash After Co-Owner's Donation To Mississippi Republican

KCBS Radio Morning News
November 26, 2018 - 10:21 am

SAN FRANCISCO – There’s a growing call for a boycott of the San Francisco Giants after the team’s principal owner donated to a controversial political candidate.

Charles B. Johnson and his wife donated a combined $5,400 to the campaign of Cindy Hyde-Smith, a Republican Senator from Mississippi who was recorded making comments that critics have said were racially insensitive. She faces Democrat Mike Espy in a runoff vote on Tuesday for the only Senate seat yet to be decided in the 2018 midterm elections. 

Hyde-Smith, who is white, has faced heavy criticism nationally over a video that surfaced showing the candidate praising a supporter by saying, “If he invited me to a public hanging, I’d be on the front row.”

Critics said her words were inappropriate because of Mississippi's history of lynching African Americans. Hyde-Smith ater said in a statement that she was exaggerating and called it “ridiculous” to read more into it. 

Oakland-based civil rights attorney John Burriss called for a total boycott of the Giants for as long as Johnson remains a principle owner.

“Baseball is a national sport, a national interest. It has been a unifying activity of all ethnic groups, all communities brought together. And so to ‘pick a side’ if you will, and pick a side that some might view as a very old, historical, negative side of this country certainly - to me - cannot be supported," Burris said to KCBS Radio. 

On Sunday, civil rights activist Dr. Harry Edwards announced his support for Burriss' boycott.

According to election filings, the Johnsons made the donation nine days after Hyde-Smith’s public hanging comment surfaced. His donation to Hyde-Smith was first reported in the San Francisco Chroicle. 

Hyde-Smith has also faced criticism for a separate video where she said it would be a good idea to make it harder for some college students to vote.

Several corporations publicly renounced their support for Hyde-Smith and asked that she return contributions they made before her comments became public.

Johnson has also donated $1,000 to a Super PAC called Black Americans for the President’s Agenda, the same group that created a radio ad during an Arkansas congressional election that many called racist. It was denounced by Representative French Hill, the candidate the ad was meant to support.

Giants President and CEO Larry Baer distanced the rest of the organization from Johnson's personal politics. 

"In no way does the Giants organization condone any racist and hateful language and behavior by anyone. It is abhorrent and in direct conflict with the core values of the San Francisco Giants," said Baer in a statement. "We take seriously the platform we have to make an impact on our community, and for decades we have used it to advocate for social justice and equality."

The team has more than 30 co-owners with a range of political views, Baer's statement said. 

"Neither I nor anyone else at the Giants can control who any of our owners support politically," he said. 

Written by Jessica Yi