It was an 85-degree Saturday morning in April when Cookie and Magic Johnson were engaged in what has become a relaxing weekend routine: breakfast at a local Los Angeles restaurant, just the two of them.
"And then boom!" recalls Magic. His phone began to buzz incessantly with news alerts and tweets too numerous to ignore. Gossip blogs and news commentators were reporting that Donald Sterling, the owner of the NBA's Los Angeles Clippers, was caught on tape making racist remarks, including a reference to an Instagram photo of Magic.
"I've got to run home. Everything's changed," Magic recalls saying in the moment as his plans to take his wife to a movie–one of their favorite couple's activities–fell by the wayside. With one last bite, he was off to be… Magic the Elder Statesman.
Days later, sitting in the Beverly Hills office of Magic Johnson Enterprises Inc., the 54-year-old NBA legend-turned-businessman reflects on the week that preceded his EBONY interview when news of the tape first broke. While the situation had little to do with him personally, Magic, with his long history of being a trusted authority in sports and business, personally stepped in as the ideal mediator. His affable demeanor and megawatt smile worked in tandem with his sage advice, which kept players focused and helped calm national outrage. "I'm glad that I was able to stand up for our people and be the voice," says Magic in retrospect. But in truth, the media frenzy surrounding the incident that would later call for the Clipper owner's ouster brought out the former star athelete's competitive side, which is never far away.
Read the rest in the July-dated issue of EBONY magazine!