E.J., Cookie and Magic Johnson at the premiere of the play 'Magic/Bird.' (Bruce Glikas/Broadway.com)
Earvin "E.J." Johnson III is making news this Tuesday, thanks to a TMZ interview that features him walking on the Sunset Strip wearing a fur coat, carrying a handbag and holding the hand of an unidentified man the gossip site claims is his boyfriend.
During the brief interview, the TMZ photographer asked the 20-year-old son of Los Angeles Lakers legend and Dodgers owner Magic Johnson about the new Dodgers season and the Lakers' playoff chances (which took a hit Monday), then let him go on his way and reported that the young man accompanying Johnson is his boyfriend. That hasn't been confirmed.
"Cookie and I love E.J. and support him in every way," Magic Johnson told TMZ in a statement. "We're very proud of him."
As Zap2It.com's Andrea Reiher writes, it really shouldn't be surprising or newsworthy in 2013 that a father would say he loves, supports and is proud of his son for being himself, regardless of his sexual orientation. But given Johnson's stature in a sporting world still very much wrestling with acceptance of homosexuality and LGBT culture, it is. It's something worth noting.
Not that Magic speaking up as an ally would be anything shocking, of course. During a December 2011 interview with the Huffington Post Canada, Johnson spoke about the aftermath of his Nov. 7, 1991, revelation that he is HIV-positive, his efforts to educate people about HIV/AIDS over the ensuing two decades and how homophobia can prove a stubborn cultural obstacle to raising awareness:
[...] I learned a lot from the white gay community because they had gotten their community, rallied them, educated them and did a wonderful job about driving the numbers down. That is the best approach that I've seen; it's been the most effective. So what we try to do in our community is bring those results to us. So I'm working hard to continue to educate minorities about HIV and AIDS and we've got to band together. We're too fragmented right now, but if we can do that, we're going to do well.
As a hip-hop fan, you realize that homophobia is still an issue everywhere, but especially in the black community. When people are scared to talk about it, that's how the disease spreads. So what have you been doing to get that risk reduced?
What we're trying to do is reach out to the hip-hop community because they have power — power with their voice, power with that mic in their hand and power with the lyrics that they sing. I have a lot of friends in that industry and so what we're trying to do is rally them to get behind the cause, deliver the message to these young people that HIV and AIDS is big and it's not going anywhere.
In the immediate aftermath of Johnson's 1991 announcement, rumors circulated that he was either gay or bisexual, and had contracted HIV by having sex with an HIV-positive male partner. Some of those rumors were allegedly circulated by longtime friend and on-court rival Isiah Thomas, which led to the famed freezeout of Thomas from the 1992 Dream Team and two decades of fractured friendship between the two legendary point guards; Thomas fervently denied spreading such rumors, and after 20 years of slow progress toward mended fences, the two recently reconciled.
Thomas, for his part, emphasized his support for gay marriage back in 2010, appearing with his son Joshua in an advertisement as part of the the NOH8 Campaign, a photographic project silent protest of Proposition 8, a 2008 California ballot initiative that reversed an earlier California Supreme Court decision allowing gays and lesbians to legally wed in the state. The reversal restricted the legal recognition of marriage in California to unions between a man and a woman. Challenges of Proposition 8 and a section of the 1996 federal Defense of Marriage Act went before the U.S. Supreme Court last week.
In summation: Magic Johnson's son apparently has a boyfriend, doesn't feel like he needs to hide that and goes out sometimes. His mom and dad are OK with that, love their son and want people to know that. All of this sounds pretty good to me, and maybe someday soon, something this innocuous and reasonable won't be very big news.
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