By NICK CHILES
What a beautiful demonstration of loving and supportive fatherhood we got this week from the great Magic Johnson. On the occasion of his 20-year-old son Earvin Johnson III, also known as E.J., stepping out of the closet and announcing to the world that he’s gay, Johnson exhibited a classic portrait of how a parent should act in such a situation.
“I love E.J. so much, that’s my main man,” Magic says. “I think he really wanted to be out. But he was torn. … He just didn’t know how. He just said, ‘This is my moment. This is my time. I’m happy to share with the world who I am.’ And I said, ‘Go, E.J., go.’ ”
He adds: “This is a good moment for us as a family, and a greater moment for him. Now he’s just the bubbly kid we knew again… I’m behind him a million percent. This is really wonderful for him.”
Though America has made great strides in its acceptance of homosexuality, Johnson is an icon in two arenas that are still struggling with piles of intolerance: the world of professional sports and the black community. Just about the entire world knows there have to be gay players hiding among the major professional sportsmen, but they are deathly afraid to step out and tell the world. And in the black community, the heavy influence of religion, I believe, is feeding a refusal to be totally accepting of gays and gay marriage—though polls indicate that acceptance is growing, surely accelerated by President Obama’s dramatic announcement last year that he is a gay marriage supporter.
So for someone of the stature of Magic to be so warmly accepting and loving of his gay son is bound to be an influential moment in the evolution of both the sports world and the black community. In addition, what a fabulous model he has exhibited for all those parents out there whose children are about to come out to them.
In an interview he did with TMZ, Magic says he first broached the subject of his sexuality with E.J. about six or seven years ago.
”What do you think about what your friends and [other] people are going to say once you tell them? Or have you told anybody?” Magic says he asked him.
E.J. had told only his two closest friends. But this week he was photographed walking hand in hand with his boyfriend on the Sunset Strip—his official declaration to the world that he’s out and proud.
“I told him, ‘Hey, we are here to support you, man. We’re going to love you no matter who you are, what you do. We just want you to love yourself,’ ” Magic, 53, said in the video.
When I came across the words of Magic, I was filled with pride and with a renewed respect for this man.
E.J., a student at New York University and one of Magic’s three children with wife Cookie, sent out a tweet expressing his feelings for his father and mother: “In the midst of all this media attention I would like to say that I am truly blessed to have parents that love and support me.”
We even got an uplifting response from Lakers star Kobe Bryant, who praised Johnson for his statement, but said it shouldn’t be surprising. “Of course Magic is supportive of and loves his son. Why should anyone be surprised?” Bryant said to TMZ. “What I can’t tolerate is a lack of tolerance.”
Maybe the words of these huge icons might bring us closer to the day when all pro athletes might feel free to tell the world who they love—and the day when the black community fully embraces the inevitable granting to gays of all the rights enjoyed by the straight community.
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Mom. NY Times bestselling author. Pop culture ninja. Unapologetic lover of shoes, bacon and babies. Nice with the verbs. Founder of the top black parenting website, MyBrownBaby.