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Sports can help give politics a more civil voice

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Sports can help give politics a more civil voice

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The recent political donations of the principal owner of the San Francisco Giants has been a great example of the good and bad that came come from politics bleeding into sports.

Charles Johnson and his wife donated $5,400 to the Cindy Hyde-Smith campaign for Senate in Mississippi back in early November. That donation was reported after Hyde-Smith made obscene comments hypothetically attending a “public hanging.”

Fans from one of the most liberal cities in the country started renouncing their fandom, saying they would return their season tickets and branded Johnson as a racist because of his donations.

There is nothing wrong with fans being upset or feeling let down by the owner of their team not holding their same political beliefs. There is a problem with fans immediately giving up on their team because of misplaced anger and disgust over the donations from an owner many of them had likely never heard of.

I do not personally agree with Johnson’s political leanings and I find his statement that Republicans create better opportunities for African Americans than Democrats ludicrous.

With that being said, I respect his right to donate money to whatever party he chooses and I accept that Johnson realized his mistake and asked for his donation to be returned.

Johnson stays out of the spotlight and has slowly acquired more and more shares of the team since his modest initial investment in the team in 1992. He now owns 26 percent of the Giants.

This was not a Donald Sterling situation, where you had well known owner caught on tape using racial slurs. This was an 85-year-old, white, conservative billionaire who sent out donations, somewhat blindly, to Republican causes and campaigns.

What is so interesting about this story is that Johnson supports and owns a team that is loved by a limitlessly diverse fanbase which embodies the values of its city. The Giants have themed nights for LGBTQ rights, AIDS research, heritage nights for all sorts of different cultures and even The Grateful Dead.

The unfortunate light shed on Johnson is actually a great opportunity for fans to engage in conversation about the tough political reality of our country today. A reality where people sit, entrenched in their corners, unable to listen and spew outrage at any opportunity.

Johnson comes from an entirely different generation where he can be a staunch Republican but isn’t defined by his ideology. He owns a progressive sports team, and according to the San Francisco Chronicle he and his foundation have given $180 million to non-political causes ranging from homelessness to children’s hospitals over the last three years.

Through his recent blunder, Johnson has given us all a wonderful opportunity to examine our own bigotry towards others beliefs and to converse as Giants fans about all sorts of difficult topics that lie outside of their echo chambers ensconced in orange and black.

Because fans can have a hard conversation with the safety of knowing they can always go back to their shared love of their team and that is something that should be celebrated and encouraged.  

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Sports can help give politics a more civil voice