clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

The Giants have commented on Charles Johnson’s donations

The organization commenting on donations to a candidate who expresses racist beliefs is good. The organization commenting on said donations in this manner is a bit more debatable.

World Series - Kansas City Royals v San Francisco Giants - Game Three Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

It is, at times, nice to live in a bubble where you, trusty fan of the San Francisco Giants, can pretend that your team is devoid of the controversies and immoral personalities of teams from other cities. That you have no Bob McNairs or Addison Russells conflicting your rooting interests.

Of course it doesn’t work like that; it doesn’t ever work like that. This offseason has been a stark reminder of that, as news surfaced that Charles Johnson, the team’s principal owner, made political donations to a super PAC that had run highly racist ads, as well as to Mississippi senator Cindy Hyde-Smith’s campaign after Hyde-Smith had made vile racist comments. With the backlash filtering in over the most recent donation, President and CEO Larry Baer issued a long statement regarding the situation that never should have been.

If your device can’t load the tweet, here is the full statement:

Statement from Giants President & CEO Laurence M. Baer Regarding Political Donations

San Francisco, CA — 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.

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, inclusiveness and tolerance in our communities. We were the first team in professional sports to raise money and awareness for a cure for AIDS (Until There’s A Cure Day), the first team to devote a day to preventing domestic and family violence (Strike Out Violence Day), and the first team to speak out against bullying, in particular of LGBTQ youth (It Gets Better). We are proud to support the renovation of the Willie Mays Boys & Girls Club at Hunter’s Point and each year our Junior Giants program provides free baseball instruction and life skills coaching to more than 25,000 low-income children throughout Northern California. We in the sports world have an ongoing responsibility to step beyond the comfort zone of our ballparks, stadiums and arenas to address injustice and suffering in our communities and the Giants will continue to make that a priority.

The Giants have more than 30 owners. Just like our fans, they come from different backgrounds and have their own political views. Many give to Democratic causes, many to Republican causes and some refrain from politics altogether. Neither I nor anyone else at the Giants can control who any of our owners support politically, just as we cannot and should not control whom any of our employees support politically. While our 30-plus owners span the political spectrum, they share one core belief: that sports has the power to inspire and galvanize a community. In 1992, when the Giants were about to be sold to a group in Tampa, these individuals recognized the importance of the Giants to the community, and they saved the team for the Bay Area. They helped turn the Giants into one of the most socially-minded and successful organizations both on and off the field. That vision has never faltered. We remain steadfast in our mission to serve our fans and the community.

I’m not going to tell you how to read that, and what to take away from it; that’s your call.

It’s perfectly reasonable to feel as though the statement amounts to a shrug and a defensive hand wave, pointing to acts of good as though they magically negate acts of bad. It’s also understandable to feel as though the statement reinforces what the organization as a whole stands for, while condemning the choice of recipients for Johnson’s donations about as much as they feel they can, given his position, and the fact that he can’t exactly be fired.

But the “look at the good things we’ve done” approach is highly dismissive of the actual issue at hand, and suggests the team doesn’t fully understand the scope of Johnson’s choices. Rather than focus on the issue that has actually caused the reaction from many fans, the team opted to focus on prior actions that they hope can shift the narrative. That’s a dangerous game to play, and suggests the organization is more interested in surface-level damage control than anything else.

Furthermore, while it is very true that the employees and owners should have the freedom to make a donation to whomever they choose politically, political lines are crossed - or at least should be - when racist actions and rhetoric enter the field. Johnson donating to a Republican candidate is not a news-worthy story; Johnson donating to any candidate after that candidate said, “If he invited me to a public hanging, I’d be on the front row,” is the issue.

That should transcend politics. And immorality and prejudice should be reprimanded, on the campaign trail or anywhere else. It’s for this reason that Bay Area civil rights leaders are asking fans to boycott the Giants for as long as Johnson is affiliated with the team.

It’s a statement. It’s good they made one, though I can’t say it settles anything in my mind. Money and power trump morality and equality, and, as much as we’d like to believe otherwise. That’s as true for the San Francisco Giants as it is for any other billion-dollar business.