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Charles Johnson’s controversial donations lead to tension and ‘heartbroken’ Renel Brooks-Moon


San Francisco Chronicle/Hearst Newspapers via Getty Images / Contributor


Charles Johnson’s political donations in 2018 led to the Giants releasing a statement saying they do not condone “any racist and hateful language and behavior by anyone.”

A few years later, the principal owner’s curious generosity has prompted the organization to “strongly condemn last week’s violence and events in Washington D.C.”

Johnson opening up his wallet for some extreme causes must be infuriating for those who used to be in the organization whom he would not do the same for, the club laying off about 10 percent of its full-time staff in October, at the same time the shadowy owner, who rarely speaks publicly, was giving money to political candidates linked with QAnon.

It is insulting for some around the organization, uncomfortable for most and personal for Renel Brooks-Moon.

The beloved public address announcer at Oracle Park had just buried her father-in-law, who died of COVID-19, when she saw the latest news of Johnson’s political donations. Among the many, from FEC filings, is $2,800, the maximum allowed for congressional candidates, for Laura Loomer, who has spoken out against mask wearing. Among the many, from FEC filings, is $2,800 to Representative Lauren Boebert, who has been a sympathizer of the delusion of QAnon.

Boebert, from Colorado, won in November and was on hand to witness the insurrection in Washington that has cost five lives. She tweeted “Today is 1776” as the riot began and, when members of the House and Senate were rushed to safe locations and told not to divulge their whereabouts, she tweeted, “The Speaker has been removed from the chambers,” a potential tip for the rioters who had breached the Capitol.

The Speaker is Nancy Pelosi, who is also the mother of Brooks-Moon’s close friend and “sister in solidarity” Christine Pelosi.

There are myriad reasons for Brooks-Moon to be outraged and one big one to be silent: Speaking out against the top of your company, the person who bankrolls a lot of what the Giants are, can cause damage and jeopardize jobs.

Instead, she spoke out and said she will not “turn a blind eye to this.” Instead, she was set to meet with the Giants’ Black employee resource group Friday to discuss what their next step is. Instead, she reached out to CEO Larry Baer and Giants board member Rob Dean, though they had not yet connected as of early Thursday night.

“I’ve had to fight battles my whole life. So on to the next one,” Brooks-Moon, who has lived in the Bay Area her whole life, said on a phone call. “I just want to be able to move this conversation forward and to continue to fight for change. It’s just so important right now. I’m just so heartbroken by what happened last week [in Washington] and I’m so concerned about Christine and her family and worried about what’s going to happen on Jan. 20. And all of this on the heels of the Black Lives Matter movement and the summer of protests.”

The summer of protests included Gabe Kapler taking a knee during the national anthem, Brooks-Moon saying she has a “fantastic relationship” with the manager. Farhan Zaidi displayed a “Black Lives Matter” sign in his office during the draft. Within an organization that prides itself on being progressive, there is a principal owner who tests Giants employees’ willingness to speak.

The club itself had been silent until late Thursday afternoon, when it released a statement that suggested it couldn’t do much about Johnson. MLB banned political donations following the Capitol riot, but individuals (especially billionaires) can do what they want.

“Our organization has a longstanding policy that prohibits company campaign contributions to candidates for federal office,” the team said. “Individual contributions of employees and investors are considered personal in nature.”

Johnson, meanwhile, has been characteristically silent. In 2018, after his donation to Senate candidate Cindy Hyde-Smith, who had come under fire for saying she would be “in the front row” of a “public hanging” if invited by a political supporter, the principal owner tried to defuse the outcry through the San Francisco Chronicle and called her comment “stupid.”

“On the whole,” he said, “I don’t like the idea of politics affecting anything that I do with the Giants.”

There were boycotts then and there could be boycotts now. It’s happened again, and for many reasons, Brooks-Moon is tired.

“The Giants assured me last summer of their commitment to support BLM; they have long supported the LGBTQ community, as have I going back to my college days,” Brooks-Moon said. “As long as I’ve been there — this is season 22 — the organization has consistently shown a commitment to justice and freedom and diversity. It’s hard to wrestle with Mr. Johnson’s donations and the fact that a statement didn’t come out until almost 24 hours later.”

 

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