Ratto: Waiting on that new apology

Giants owner Charles Johnson is once again in the news for his political donations

Charles Johnson, the largely invisible owner of the San Francisco Giants and the father of the largely invisible head of the Giants' business side, Greg Johnson, is visible again, and for the same reason that forced him to apologize for doing exactly what he meant to do — donating to an unpopular and aggressively right-wing Republican with a history of incendiary remarks.

In 2016, it was Mississippi Senate candidate Cindy Hyde-Smith to whom Johnson and his wife Ann donated the maximum allowable $2,800, and then asked for it to be returned after Hyde-Smith said of a supporter, "If he asked me to a public hanging, I'd be on the front row." Given Mississippi's history of lynchings, even the state's governor objected to her choice of words, and Johnson apologized for the donation saying, “On the whole, I don’t like the idea of politics affecting anything I do with the Giants,” he said in an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle.

Actually, on the whole, he likes exactly that, as he and Ann Johnson have also donated to Colorado Republican Congresswoman Lauren Boebert in this last election cycle despite Boebert's remarks endorsing QAnon. Boebert also tweeted out the location of Rep. Nancy Pelosi's office during last Wednesday's invasion of the Capitol Building, though that was after Johnson's donation. Boebert's support for QAnon occurred in May, though she later disavowed it.

Either way, Johnson has another apology due his baseball constituency, or he can retract his earlier one as a cynical lie meant to get him out of a brief public relations jam. Now that he has another such problem, one so similar that it should be read as doubling down on 2018, he is likely to find politics interfering with his baseball holding yet again. In fact, the apology he gives this time will ring far less meaningful because he has done the same exact thing he said he shouldn't have done two years back.

It's hard to know how much effect his 2018 remarks had on his baseball team's appeal in 2019 because despite the team drawing more than 5,000 fewer fans per night, the lowest aggregate drop in franchise history before COVID, there is no line item that shows how many people chose not to come because of the politics as opposed to the losing. Nor is there a way to measure it in 2021, because the new attendance baseline is zero and there is no schedule yet, let alone any sense that crowds will be allowed in when baseball begins again.

But we can measure Johnson's 2018 apology in terms of effectiveness because unless he just gives blanket checks to anyone running as a Republican without thought to their actual poltics, he's just repeated the same behavior he found so reprehensible two years before. Arizona Diamondbacks owner Ken Kendrick and his wife also donated the maximum allowable to Boebert's campaign, but he lives in a redder state and hasn't apologized for any of his donations, even though his wife Randy formed a super PAC in 2016 to portray Donald Trump as "too reckless to be President."

Johnson is the issue in these parts, though, and while he is surely within his right to donate to his candidates of choice for whatever reason he chooses, he is no longer afforded the option of calling it a mistake. He meant it then, he means it now, and whatever the effect on the popularity of his baseball team, he can't say that he wasn't told, and neither can the fans he is trying to attract.

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