Despite being a legendary Hall of Fame basketball player, Magic Johnson understands the realities of being a black man in America.
His grandfather prepared his father, who prepared him, Johnson told CNN’s Anderson Cooper Monday, and he’s had “the talk” with his two sons about interacting with police. It’s the discussion all black and brown parents have with their children so they don’t say or do the wrong thing around a police officer, ending up on the ever-growing list of men and boys who have died at the hands of police.
“I had that conversation because it’s important that I have that conversation with both E.J. and Andre,” Johnson said on talking with his sons. “Let’s look at George Floyd. He did everything he was supposed to do. And this police officer put all his body weight, all his body weight on his neck, right, for eight minutes. So if that can happen to George Floyd, it can happen to E.J. and Andre and more black men.”
Protests have erupted in cities across the country and the world calling for justice in Floyd’s death. Floyd was unarmed when former Minneapolis officer Derek Chauvin’s put his knee on his neck as Floyd pleaded that he couldn’t breathe. Chauvin and three other officers were fired as a result of Floyd’s death, but only Chauvin was charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.
Some protests have been peaceful, while others have turned violent. Johnson said Floyd’s death illustrates why the black community has never really trusted police.
“There’s been a lot of George Floyd’s in our community that hasn’t been reported or seen, and people who live in black America know that,” he said. “Only reason now that we’re acting like this is because we’re fed up. We’re tired of it. We can’t take it anymore.”
Johnson said he did appreciate that it wasn’t just black people in the protests.
“All race of people are out there, and they’re showing their power and they’re letting their voice be heard,” he said.
“These young people got to have a voice at the table. They want their voices heard. They want their concerns heard. And then they want action to take place. And so they’re going to still protest for a long time until their voices are heard.”
Other athletes have also become vocal about George Floyd’s death and the protests that followed. LeBron James posted an image on Instagram after Floyd’s death with one side showing the officer kneeling on Floyd’s neck and former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick kneeling on the other side with the words “This… … Is Why” and the caption “Do you understand NOW!!??!!?? Or is it still blurred to you?? #StayWoke.”
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar also wrote a powerful op-ed for the Los Angeles Times defending the protests.