Magic Johnson Says He Sees Similarities in the People’s Response to Coronavirus and AIDS

Jason Duaine Hahn

Magic Johnson is seeing common threads between the public’s response to the novel coronavirus and the AIDS epidemic of the ’80s and early ’90s.

In an interview with ESPN, the 60-year-old NBA legend said there is a lot of “bad information” being spread about coronavirus — similar to what he saw happen around HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

“The same issues we had then, we have now, where bad information, myth about ‘it couldn’t happen to us in the black community,’ not being educated enough about HIV and AIDS,” Johnson told the network. “The same thing [is happening] with the coronavirus.”

Johnson — who won five championships during his time with the Los Angeles Lakers — made the announcement he had contracted HIV on Nov. 7, 1991. With the then-stunning news, Johnson said he was retiring immediately from the NBA.

“I plan to go on living for a long time,” he said during a press conference at the time.

He was only 32.

Against a backdrop of discrimination and fear of AIDS patients, Johnson’s openness was met with praise by health officials, who applauded him for speaking about the disease and his experience while also keeping an optimistic attitude about the years ahead.

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Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty From left: Kobe Bryant, Magic Johnson and Shaquille O’Neal in 2000

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Johnson is now partnering with the NBA to help raise awareness about the coronavirus among African-Americans.

The Associated Press reported last week that about 42 percent of U.S. deaths that included demographic data showed they were in the black community.

“We really have to get out in front of this,” Johnson told ESPN. “That is why I am so happy the NBA is saying, ‘Hey, we have to do something about it because who is out there on the court? Majority African-American players. Who enjoys this sport? African-Americans.’ We love our basketball.”

“This is very important right now,” he added.

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Ang, who runs a basketball-coaching business after school, began streaming his sessions free of charge from his living room on Facebook and Instagram.

Johnson will appear in videos and participate in virtual town-hall meetings to help get the word out to minority communities about the seriousness of the coronavirus.

“The NBA has been at the forefront when you think about diversity and inclusion,” he told ESPN. “The NBA has cachet in our community. When something happens in the black community, the NBA has always been there … It’s a no-brainer.”

Last month, the NBA became the first major sports organization to suspend operations to help fight the spread of coronavirus.