Agent Says Use of Magic’s Name Unauthorized
The use of Magic Johnson’s name to benefit AIDS research and prevention took a controversial turn Tuesday when it was reported that Johnson was “too sick” to attend a news conference in New York to announce a pay-per-view television special with Donald Trump.
Johnson’s agent, Lon Rosen, said that Johnson was not affiliated with the benefit, and characterized the report as a “cheap publicity stunt” by Trump officials to bring attention to the Feb. 28 show at the Taj Mahal casino in Atlantic City, N.J.
The New York Post reported Tuesday that several sources said Johnson “does not feel up to” making the trip for an appearance today with Trump to promote the special, featuring one-on-one competition between retired players Julius Erving and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
Howard Klein, senior vice president of marketing for Trump’s Taj Mahal, blamed the situation on a scheduling conflict, saying of Johnson that there was “definitely a positive indication of participation at some point.
“It was not set in stone, but it had been discussed in a very positive way,” Klein told the Associated Press. “How the thing got spun out of control that it was health related, I don’t know. It was not a health-related case. It was a scheduling thing.”
Said Rosen: “That’s not true. There was never an assumption that he was going to be there. I’ve never been in contact with anybody at the Taj Mahal or Trump’s organization.”
Rosen said that Johnson understands the importance of his actions, considering the politically charged issues surrounding AIDS, the acquired immunodeficiency disease syndrome. Instead of quickly committing himself, Rosen said, Johnson has been slowly developing the Magic Johnson Foundation to handle the multitude of benefit requests.
Last week, after having been criticized by politicians and the clergy for originally stating, “safe sex is the best sex,” Johnson changed his message to, “No sex is the safest sex.”
Rosen said that most requests have been legitimate, adding: “We don’t want to make any mistakes. Obviously there will be people trying to take advantage.”
Johnson’s celebrity has, if possible, increased in recent weeks. The additional attention has brought a flurry of projects, some authorized, some not.
Harper Paperbacks, for instance, has released “Magic: More Than the Legend,” by Bill Gutman. Rosen said Gutman did not interview him or Johnson in a project that had to be written quickly to be published in time for the holidays.
Others have tried to associate themselves or their causes with Johnson since the startling announcement Nov. 7 that Johnson had contracted the virus believed to cause AIDS.
Rosen said that he first learned of Trump’s intentions after a Nov. 15 news release bearing the headline, “Donald Trump Brings ‘Magic’ to the Big Apple,” said there would be a news conference Nov. 20 involving Johnson and Trump.
The New York Post reported a source as saying that the pay-per-view TV special was planned before Johnson’s announcement, but once the announcement was made, the casino began planning to find a way to make it an AIDS benefit.
The Post indicated that Johnson was too sick to attend today’s news conference because he was suffering side effects from the antiviral drug, AZT, which Johnson started taking Nov. 17.
Rosen said Johnson ran four miles Tuesday and continues to play basketball every day. “He is absolutely fine,” Rosen said. “He has no symptoms, no (suffering from the) disease, no effects from AZT.”