The president of the San Francisco chapter of the NAACP is calling for a boycott of the Giants after one of the team's owners contributed to the re-election campaign of Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.), who joked about a public hanging.
Charles Johnson and his wife, Ann, have each donated $2,700 to Hyde-Smith's (R-Mississippi) campaign, according to a federal election filing recently made public.
Hyde-Smith, who is facing a Nov. 27 runoff against former U.S. Agriculture Secretary Mike Espy, a Democrat, has been on the defensive after she was caught on camera joking about attending a “public hanging.”
The comments ignited a firestorm of criticism but did not garner much attention in the Bay Area until Johnson's contribution was brought to light.
"For him to have given this donation to Ms. Hyde-Smith is a cooperation with evil," said the Rev. Amos Brown, president of the local NAACP chapter and a native of Mississippi, a state with a troubling history of slavery and lynchings of African-Americans.
"It's unconscionable and people in San Francisco, the Bay Area, who are fair-minded ... should not wink, look the other way with Charles Johnson giving money to this lady's campaign," said Brown, who is pastor of the Third Baptist Church in San Francisco.
Hyde-Smith later apologized for her comment.
"For anyone that was offended by my comments, I certainly apologize," she said, when questioned about it during a recent debate with Espy. "There was no ill will, no intent whatsoever in my statements."
She then adamantly insisted that the comment had been "twisted" and "turned into a weapon to be used against me."
"We are calling for a boycott pending whether or not Mr. Charles Johnson admits his poor judgement in supporting this lady," Brown said. "Since you don't support human decency, dignity ... we can't support you and the Giants," adding that Johnson should take the contribution back.
Civil rights attorney John Burris and Harry Edwards, co-founder of San Jose State's Institute for the Study of Sport, Society and Social Change, are among those who have joined Brown in calling for a boycott of the Giants.
The Giants' top executive denounced racism on Monday, but said there was nothing the team could do about the political donations its owners make.
"In no way does the Giants organization condone any racist and hateful language and behavior by anyone," Giants President and CEO Larry Baer said in a statement. "It is abhorrent and in direct conflict with the core values of the San Francisco Giants."
Baer emphasized that the team has advocated for social justice and spoken out against bullying, particularly of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer youth. The team, he said, had also run a program teaching baseball and "life skills coaching" to thousands of low-income children.
"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," he said.
Baer noted that the more than 30 people who have ownership stakes in the Giants have different political views.
"Many give to Democratic causes, many to Republican causes, and some refrain from politics altogether," he said. "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."
Johnson, who has yet to comment about his donation to Hyde-Smith's campaign, also once donated $1,000 to a super PAC that created a racist radio ad in Arkansas. That ad falsely claimed Democrats could bring lynchings back if black voters did not support Republicans.
He later renounced the group and said he strongly condemned racism.
Major League Baseball, which also supported Hyde-Smith's campaign, recently requested that its $5,000 donation be returned.
KQED's Peter Jon Shuler contributed reporting to this story.