Bay Area civil rights advocates called off the boycott of the San Francisco Giants, and that’s fine. Principal owner Charles Johnson finally stopped hiding behind his blowhard lawyer who was only making things worse. He finally pledged to take back his political contribution to a straight-up racist U.S. Senator from Mississippi.
And, yes, this was Johnson’s second apology for contributing to racist causes. The 85-year-old billionaire businessman has been as disastrous in his actions in the political realm for the past couple of months as the Giants have been on the field for the past couple of years.
And the trouble was, because of Johnson’s role with the team, the organization had to tread lightly by disavowing racism that it never directly identified in a public statement because the racism in question was, you know, supported by the guy who owns the biggest piece of the team.
Personally, I’m going to reserve judgment on whether I will spend my discretionary income on the Giants until late December. That is when more federal election data is available to see if Johnson did take back his political contribution from the Confederate-loving Cindy Hyde-Smith, who likes to make jokes about public hangings and voter suppression. Johnson had already taken back his money from a super PAC that used it to create racist radio ads in Arkansas.
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Throughout these public pratfalls, Johnson made Hunter Strickland, the Giants mixed up reliever who broke his pitching hand by hitting the dugout wall after blowing a save, seem like a Rhodes Scholar.
With spring training still far off in February, we would benefit from Johnson going back to being neither seen nor heard, as all sports owners should be. I would. The Giants have been an integral part of my life since 1971 and I don’t want to be mad at them.
It is a wonderful organization. The Giants give generously to charity. Larry Baer, who runs the Giants, is a great guy. Staci Slaughter, one of Baer’s top people, is a Sacramento native and you will not find anyone in baseball or any other business who is more kind and more professional than she.
Clearly, the people who work at AT&T Park do not support Johnson’s political choices nor do those choices reflect the values the Giants have exemplified since Baer talked Peter McGowan into heading a new ownership group that bought the Giants in 1992.
But despite all this, the Giants deserved all the heat they got this week. Johnson does not own a team in a part of the nation where Hyde-Smith’s fetish for the Confederacy and Jim Crow is shrugged off. The negative reaction to Johnson illustrated how a majority of people in Northern California do not support those who support bigots.
As has already been stated, Johnson has a constitutional right to his political leanings. But he does not have a constitutional right to the silence of his customers here. I was deeply troubled by his actions, as I am by the resurgence of white nationalists and Nazis since Donald Trump was elected president.
And if the principal owner of the team I have supported since I was a boy was financially supporting Hyde-Smith – a Trump puppet playing racial politics out of the Trump playbook – then I didn’t need to spend my money at AT&T Park any longer.
This wasn’t about denying Johnson his rights. I was exerting my rights as a consumer. And Johnson finally responded. Why? Because the Giants are a discretionary expense for every person who buys a ticket, a cap, a foam finger and Panda hat.
As I wrote before: If this were a simple policy disagreement or political difference, this never would have been a story. But Hyde-Smith personifies politics in the Trump era. Her background, affiliations and public statements should be disqualifying but, instead, are a source of political strength.
It starts with how she was educated. From a profile of her by the Jackson Free Press: “U.S. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith attended and graduated from a segregation academy that was set up so that white parents could avoid having to send their children to schools with black students, a yearbook reveals.”
As an elected official, originally a Democrat before switching to the GOP, Hyde-Smith has been a booster for the Confederacy. She has sought to name stretches of public roads after Jefferson Davis, the president of the Confederacy. She posed for pictures wearing a Confederate hat at Davis’ home and shared them on Facebook under the heading” Mississippi history at its best!”
She said she loved a rancher so much that she would attend a “public hanging” if he asked her to. There was no doubt what she meant. Public hangings in Mississippi involved white people hanging black people. Public hangings in Mississippi were done to brutalize and intimidate black people. Period.
The night before Hyde-Smith was elected to a full Senate term on Tuesday, Trump visited her state and laid bare why people should vote for her instead of Mike Espy, the former U.S Secretary of Agriculture , and who is African American.
““Oh, (Espy) is far left. He’s out there. How does he fit in in Mississippi?” How does he fit? This was a variation of Trump calling Stacey Abrams, the African American woman who ran for Governor of Georgia, unqualified. Or how he called Andrew Gillum, the African American man running for governor of Florida, a “thief.” Or how he’s called well-known and respected African American women in media dumb.
Trump’s whole message and Hyde-Smith’s entire legislative career speak to a country of drawn racial lines: White is right, black is wrong.
They don’t hide it, and yet I’m always amazed by the number of people who deny these are core values of Trump and Hyde-Smith. Even Johnson, in an interview with Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle, continued to deny that Hyde-Smith’s Confederate love was a problem.
I can’t begin to tell you about the many people who have written to me in the last week, not because they were upset at Johnson but because they were upset at me for calling him out.
And then it struck me: Isn’t that what Trumpism is all about? The core emotion propping up Trump’s run for the presidency was anger. His base is mostly an older, white electorate that was fed up with Barack Obama. These voters were fed up with Mexicans and Muslims and gay people and trans people. They were fed up with anyone who asserted their own rights and took issue with those who would malign ethnic, racial, sexual or religious minorities.
So when Trump called Mexicans “rapists” or when he pushed for a Muslim ban of immigrants or tried to keep trans people out of the military or called African American celebrities “dumb,” he knew he was doing. He’s been feeding those who are fed up with the others who “don’t fit.”
Do all white people feel this way? No, of course not. Just on Thursday, I got an email from a group of women – all white – who took a picture of themselves as they wrote letters to Baer and the Giants protesting Johnson’s support of Hyde-Smith. I’ve had countless emails that start along the lines of “I’m a 67-year-old white man and I’m with you!”
No, this isn’t a white people’s problem. This is a problem of people who have a problem with a diverse America.
If in late December we learn that Johnson’s money was never returned by the Hyde-Smith campaign, well, then I’m going to find other ways to spend my money next baseball season.
I can’t tolerate white nationalism lynching jokes, Confederacy fetishes, and politics that demean people based on their race, ethnicity, sexual orientation and religion. I’m just funny that way.