by Roz Edward
Special to the NNPA from The Atlanta Daily World
Like many of you, I tuned in to watch the cringe worthy Donald Sterling interview with Anderson Cooper on Monday night’s episode of “AC360″ on CNN. The Los Angeles Clippers owner attempted to change the minds of those who have declared him a racist after hearing snippets of a recorded conversation between him and his “girlfriend” V. Stiviano. During the conversation, Sterling expressed his disapproval of Stiviano taking pictures with minorities, particularly Magic Johnson, and of African Americans attending Clippers games.
In the sit down CNN interview, Sterling repeatedly told Cooper, “I’m not a racist”, and backed up his statement by explaining that he donates millions of dollars each year to help minorities. He continued,”That’s one problem I have. Jews, when they get successful, they will help their people, and some of the African-Americans — maybe I’ll get in trouble again — they don’t want to help anybody.”
He then went on to question what NBA Hall of Famer, entrepreneur and philanthropist, Magic Johnson, has done for the African American community, ignorantly stating that Johnson is not a suitable role model because he has AIDS. (Magic Johnson does not have full-blown AIDS but is HIV positive.) “What has he done? Can you tell me? Big Magic Johnson, what has he done? He’s got AIDS. Did he do any business, did he help anybody in South LA?” Sterling asked during the interview.
Well, Mr. Sterling, since you asked – what exactly has Earvin “Magic” Johnson done for the community? What has he done, period? As it turns out — and as most of us know — Magic Johnson has done quite a lot, and has been doing so for some time.
1. Magic Johnson has raised millions of dollars for charity.
After announcing he was HIV positive in 1991, Magic Johnson formed what is now called “one of the most recognizable philanthropic organizations in the world”, the Magic Johnson Foundation (MJF). MJF “works to develop programs and support community-based organizations that address the educational, health and social needs of ethnically diverse, urban communities” and particularly aims to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS through education. Johnson serves as chairman and CEO of the foundation and according to CNN.com, has raised over $20 million and given out almost $4 million in scholarships since it beginning in the early 1990s.
2. Magic Johnson has brought business opportunities to minority communities.
Magic Johnson founded MJ Enterprises in 1987 and focused on improving minority communities by bringing quality businesses to diverse urban areas. This includes the expansion of movie theaters, restaurants, sports teams, a television network (Aspire) and even fitness centers that aim to “answer the demands of minority areas.” Not only does MJ Enterprises work to celebrate the African-American experience, but by fostering new businesses, Johnson has created many job opportunities for minorities and has created a breeding ground for the next generation of African-American business executives, presidents and CEOs. He could’ve just sat on his millions after his impressive sports career, but Magic used his clout and resources for a second act as a businessman and philanthropist earning him nods like a spot on Black Enterprise’s 50 Most Powerful Blacks in Sports in 2005.
3. Magic Johnson has helped change the way the public views AIDS/HIV.
When Magic Johnson announced he was retiring from the Lakers due to testing HIV positive in 1991, America knew close to nothing about the disease. Magic Johnson has helped to change not only America’s attitude toward the disease but has helped to educate those who knew nothing about it. Magic’s public battle with HIV has encouraged many people to go out and get tested and to protect themselves.
4. Magic Johnson has provided support to members of the gay community.
Magic Johnson’s 20-year-old son, E.J., recently announced to the world that he is gay and since his son’s announcement, Magic has publicly supported his son 100%. In an interview with Anderson Cooper back in November, Johnson stated, “Just like my son E.J. came out, it was important that Cookie and I support our son. We love our son, we’re going to support him 150 percent, but we’re one of the minorities in this. In the black community, young gay men or young ladies who are lesbians, they’re afraid to tell their parents,” and Johnson hopes to change that. By working closely with members of the gay community to raise HIV/AIDS awareness, Johnson tried to educate others about the disease and in turn, help support his son. “What I wanted the gay community to do for me is help my son, right – give him the right information, help him to grow and be a good young man,” Johnson told Cooper. “Things that I can’t talk about, that I don’t know about, they can help him.”
Johnson also believes that through his public support of his son E.J., he can help save lives and encourage youth to feel confident enough to come out as well.
5. Magic Johnson has inspired generations as a NBA Hall of Famer
Before his philanthropic work and business ventures, Magic Johnson was an exceptional athlete. He led Michigan State University to a national title in 1979 before joining the Lakers — becoming the tallest point guard in NBA history – and going on to win the NBA Championship during his first year in the league. In his 13 years with the team, Magic earned five NBA championships, three MVP awards and was a 12-time All-Star. He also joined the “Dream Team” in the 1992 Olympic games in Barcelona and earned the US a gold medal in the first year professional athletes could take part in the Olympic games. But more than just his killer statistics, Magic is often cited for changing the way the game was played. The “big player with the big heart” was the ultimate sportsman and team player with unselfish passes and assists to make others look good.
There’s no denying that Magic Johnson has helped minority communities tremendously during his career. Whether he spread HIV/AIDS awareness, brought businesses opportunities to minority communities or led his teams to victory during his basketball years, Magic Johnson definitely has done a lot for his community.