Basketball Hall of Famer Magic Johnson, who made national headlines in the early 1990s when he retired after he tested positive for the HIV virus, sees similarities to that time period and the current coronavirus pandemic.
"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 said Wednesday, per Malika Andrews of ESPN.com. "The same thing [is happening] with the coronavirus."
The Los Angeles Lakers legend is partnering with the NBA through initiatives such as public service announcements, virtual discussions and an online town hall series with health professionals to raise awareness about COVID-19.
"We really have to get out in front of this," Johnson said. "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."
The NBA Together initiative is also partnering with the NAACP, National Urban League and other nonprofit organizations to increase education, particularly in minority communities.
Last Wednesday, Kat Stafford, Meghan Hoyer and Aaron Morrison of the Associated Press reported a study showed 42 percent of the people who died as a result of COVID-19 were black even though only approximately 21 percent of the population analyzed was black.
Stafford, Hoyer and Morrison noted the "history of systemic racism and inequity in access to health care and economic opportunity has made many African Americans far more vulnerable to the virus."
Johnson is no stranger to doing what he can to raise awareness as communities—and the country as a whole—fight diseases.
Mark Medina of USA Today noted he raised more than $10 million for HIV/AIDs research and charities after he went public with his diagnosis.
The five-time champion also stressed that the safety of players and everyone involved in sports needs to take priority when deciding when basketball should return.
"I hope that happens. But first the players have to be safe," Johnson said, per Medina. "The numbers have to be stabilized. America and all of us who live in this great country we live in need sports, especially in a time like this. But only if everybody is safe."