WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Magic Johnson won five NBA titles as a player and has collected numerous championship rings as a part owner of three other sports teams. But he said being part of the Washington Commanders' ownership group has caused a different level of excitement for a simple reason.
"There's no higher sports league than the NFL, and it's been hard for us to get into the league," Johnson said, referring to African-Americans.
There are no Black majority owners in the NFL, but Johnson became a limited owner when Josh Harris bought the Commanders this year. Johnson also is a part owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Los Angeles Sparks and the Los Angeles FC. But he said Sunday's home opener against the Arizona Cardinals will be "emotional" for him because he's a minority.
"It's important because now all African-Americans and minorities in this country feel like they're owners of this team, too," Johnson said, "because I'm sitting in this position, and so I can't wait."
Johnson spoke to reporters after an event at a Boys & Girls Club, where he handed one child $1,000 and another one $5,000 with the stipulation they must open a bank account. The Commanders also donated $50,000 to the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Washington.
Johnson also handed out autographed Commanders' jerseys with his old Lakers number, 32. When he spoke to the crowd, he said, "I'm happy to be one of the owners because I look like all of you. That's a powerful thing."
Later, he told reporters, "It's important to me, but it was more important to Josh Harris. So give him credit, and important to commissioner Roger Goodell, too. So I think that the NFL is better because I'm standing here. I think that this ownership group is better because I'm standing here. I know what I stand for, who I am, and I know that there's a lot of minorities standing on my shoulders. I get that, but I got broad shoulders."
Johnson spoke to Washington's players Wednesday, stressing the importance of preparation and discipline when it comes to winning titles.
"I kept telling them I've never been satisfied," Johnson said. "I'm a guy who wants more. I've always wanted more. I have 14 world championship rings and I [want] a Super Bowl ring. And so how can I help them achieve that?"
He didn't mention previous owner Dan Snyder by name, but Johnson said he told the players the atmosphere will be different. Snyder was investigated multiple times by the NFL as well as Congress and the FTC over various allegations and for what was labeled a toxic workplace culture.
"You don't have to worry about no problems from this ownership group," Johnson said he told the players. "You just have to concentrate on Sundays playing football. You ain't going to read no headlines. You're not going to have to worry about nothing. No questions from you guys about stuff off the field. Your job is just to concentrate on doing your job and having fun every Sunday, every Thursday or every Monday. That's it."
Johnson also reflected on what Sunday will mean to him, pointing out that his wife, Cookie, is also a big sports fan. He said, "We're sitting there and I say, I never thought this day would happen, that I would be an NFL owner. It'll be a great moment. And then when that kickoff happens, I'm going to be ready for the Commanders to kick some you-know-what."