Civil rights leaders call for boycott of San Francisco Giants over owner's support of Miss. senator

Well-known civil rights activist Dr. Harry Edwards is joining a growing number of people who say they will boycott the San Francisco Giants.

The controversy is over one of the team’s owners, Charles Johnson, who donated $2,700 to the campaign of Mississippi Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith, who earlier this month, said she would "be in the front row" if invited to a public hanging. Many called that remark "racist," and the senator later apologized. 

Edwards tweeted late Sunday that he will boycott all Giants games, community events and other activities “until its owner explains his financial support for segregationist advocates of public hangings and ‘monkey’ comments.”

Edwards, a professor emeritus of sociology at UC Berkeley and who has served as a consultant to both the San Francisco 49ers and Golden State Warriors, is also supported by Oakland civil rights attorney John Burris, who issued a statement about why he is boycotting the baseball team.

Burris wrote in part:

“As a civil rights lawyer, and a baseball historian even as a child, I have a deep appreciation for the legacy of the Negro League, Jackie Robinson and the importance that baseball has played in bringing different ethnic groups and communities together. As such, it is an anathema to my sense of social justice to support a team whose principal owner financially supports Hyde-Smith.

Charles Johnson's financial support is an affront to all the African American families that have been victims of Mississippi's historical legacy of voter suppression, physical violence, intimidation, racial and ethnic discrimination among its other atrocities.  As such I will never attend, and I will encourage others not to attend another San Francisco Giants' game as long as Charles Johnson is associated with the team.”

Burris held a news conference at noon at the Third Baptist Church in San Francisco, along with Dr. Amos Brown, president of the San Francisco NAACP.

In a statement sent to KTVU on Monday, Giants President and CEO Larry Baer responded to the criticism.

"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," Baer wrote.  "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 listed the Giants' activism with AIDS, the LGBTQ community and the renovation of the Willie Mays Boys and Girls Club at Hunter's Point each year as examples.   

However, Baer explained, the Giants have more than 30 owners and "just like our fans, they come from different backgrounds and have their own political views."

He said 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," Baer wrote.

Major League Baseball also donated $5,000 to Hyde-Smith’s campaign nearly three weeks after her comments regarding a public hanging, but the league asked Hyde-Smith to return to the contribution, the Mercury News reported.

MLB spokesman Pat Courtney told the newspaper that the donation “was made in connection with an event that MLB lobbyists were asked to attend.”