Magic Johnson reaffirms interest in NFL
September, 12, 2011
By Ramona Shelburne | ESPNLosAngeles.com
Kevork Djansezian/Getty ImagesMagic Johnson, right, shown with Oscar De La Hoya and L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, reaffirmed his commitment to the NFL in L.A.Magic Johnson is ready for some football.
The Los Angeles Lakers legend, on Monday, reaffirmed his involvement and commitment to Farmers Field, Anschutz Entertainment Group's $1.2 billion proposed football stadium in downtown Los Angeles that cleared a major legislative hurdle last week when the California State Senate passed a bill to expedite legal challenges to the project.
Johnson, who has been among the project's most high-profile supporters, said he will be part of the ownership group that solicits a team to move to Los Angeles and play in the stadium.
"I'm going to be part of that [ownership] group. I am a part of it. We just have to see what happens once we get going," Johnson told ESPNLosAngeles.com at an event to announce his involvement in a nationwide alternative education program to help students who are at risk of dropping out of school.
"I'm truly excited. It's going to improve our community and help our community," he said. "We need jobs, we need more conventions to come to our city, and then of course ... I'm a football fan. I used to be a season ticket holder for the Rams and the Raiders when they played here. I want football here. I'm tired of cheering for everybody else's team. I want to cheer for my own team."
Senate Bill 292, which will fast-track legal challenges to the stadium's environmental impact report directly to the California Court of Appeal, is awaiting approval from California Gov. Jerry Brown, who has 30 days to either sign or veto the bill.
He is expected to sign it but if he takes no action, the bill will become law anyway.
AEG president and CEO Tim Leiweke said plans for Farmers Field could not have continued unless the bill was passed.
"Once the governor signs off," Johnson said, "we can move fast, Tim Leiweke and AEG can move fast in starting the process on getting Farmers Field built, putting a lot of people to work, and bringing football back to Los Angeles."
Johnson spoke to ESPNLosAngeles.com after announcing his plans to partner with Edison Learning in a monumental program to bring extra educational programs and resources to urban schools and underperforming public schools throughout the country.
Calling it "the most important thing I've done," Johnson said he will be hands-on in working with at-risk students at his new learning centers.
"I've opened Starbucks and businesses all over urban America," he said. "But forget all that. This is the most important thing. We've got a big problem going on and this is where I'm going to put my attention."
Last year Johnson sold 105 of his Starbucks locations back to the company, and his 4.5 percent ownership stake in the Lakers. He still owns hundreds of restaurants, movie theaters and fitness clubs in urban centers.
"This is why," he said. "Touching the community has always been number one for me and this is a huge problem. Over a million kids a year are dropping out. We can't have that."
Ramona Shelburne is a columnist and reporter for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Information from ESPNLosAngeles.com's Arash Markazi was used in this report.
Follow Ramona Shelburne on Twitter: @ramonashelburne