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Game changer: Sports icon Magic Johnson supports gay son in coming out

Earvin ‘Magic’ Johnson

WINSLOW TOWNSON/AP

It's a wonderfully heart-warming story that you don't see in headlines too often: Not only is dad okay with his son being gay, but he helped and encouraged him to come out. "We want you to love yourself," he told his son.

This story is newsworthy, though, because the wonderful dad is basketball legend Magic Johnson. And a story of gay acceptance isn't often associated with U.S. locker rooms or professional sports.

After Earvin Johnson III was seen on the Hollywood strip with his partner last week, Magic decided to give an interview to TMZ about his son's coming-out process.

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Magic says in the interview he knew his son was gay when EJ – one of his three boys – was just 13 years old. " 'Look, I'm going to love you regardless. Just let me know: Are you or aren't you?' and then he finally said, 'Yes, I am.' He wasn't going to come to me with it."

EJ announced on his Twitter page, decked out with terrifying diamond skeletons, that he is "truly blessed to have parents that love and support me."

The Los Angeles Lakers' Kobe Bryant chimed in about Johnson's support: "Of course Magic is supportive of and loves his son. Why should anyone be surprised? … What I can't tolerate is a lack of tolerance."

The love and acceptance from a sports legend signifies – we hope – a sea change in the mentality of professional athletes, not traditionally associated with gay-friendly messages.

In Canada, former Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke went public with support of his son's sexuality, before Brendan Burke was tragically killed in a car accident. Brendan, at the time, said he was "flooded with positivity" after he came out on a national level.

Perhaps even a more surprising gay-friendly message: A Republican senator had a change of heart last month when his son came out: Rob Portman publicly, bravely, changed his mind on the issue of gay rights. The same day, this non-issue note, from a man many lauded as "best dad ever" made the Internet smile.

But this isn't just tolerance or acceptance for Magic Johnson – it's a celebration of his son's path, and proud dad that he is, he gives another reason why he's worthy of role model status.

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Is this the end of "in the closet" in U.S. locker rooms?

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About the Author
Editor in the Opinion section

Amberly McAteer is an editor in the Opinion section at The Globe and Mail. She has been a homepage editor, online editor and community editor in Features - including Life, Travel, Style, Arts and Books. She's written columns about her quest to run a 10K and find the perfect dog. More

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