NBC's Lauer Frets: Gay Athletes Staying in Closet 'Says Something About the Times We're Living In'

On Friday's NBC Today, co-host Matt Lauer accused American society of being intolerant of gay athletes: "There are no openly gay players, but there are lots of gay athletes in major sports, and the fact that they still feel as if they'll be ostracized if they come out is – says something about the times we're living in." [Listen to the audio or watch the video after the jump]

Lauer made the comment in reaction to a story about the son of former basketball star Magic Johnson coming out as gay. In that report, Willie Geist proclaimed: "Magic has been a champion of causes within the gay and lesbian community for decades....with the support of such a beloved icon, there is renewed hope that this will help break the taboo of open sexuality in the sports world....There remain no openly gay players in any of the major professional team sports. But Magic said in that interview yesterday he expects that to change and soon."


Here is a full transcript of the April 5 report:

7:31AM ET

MATT LAUER: We begin this half hour with basketball hall-of-famer Magic Johnson. He's opening up for the first time about the fact that he has a son who is gay. Willie is here with more on that story. Willie, good morning.

WILLIE GEIST: Matt, good morning. It was more two decades ago that Magic Johnson suddenly became the public face of HIV/AIDS and changed the way those diseases are viewed around the world. Now in talking publicly and lovingly about his son's sexuality, Magic hopes he can help to push along the attitudes about gays and lesbians, too.

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: "Nothing Has Changed"; Magic Johnson Opens Up About His Gay Son]

Magic Johnson, Lakers legend, Dodgers co-owner, advocate, and this morning, supportive father.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: What's good, brother?

E.J. JOHNSON: What up? What up? What up?

GEIST: When TMZ cameras shot Magic's son E.J. earlier this week holding hands with a male friend in Hollywood, the world learned what Magic and his wife Cookie have known for years, that their son, 20-year-old Irvin III, is gay. Manager later spoke to TMZ about his first conversation with E.J. about his sexuality, when E.J. was still a teenager.

MAGIC JOHNSON: When I showed my support and love for him and I told him, "Hey, I'm good with it, just be" – he went like, phew.

GEIST: Magic's Dream Team status made him a legend on the court, but it's a role he considers a distant second to being a father.

JOHNSON: I love E.J. so much, that's my main man. So I told him, I said, "Nothing has changed. I just want to help you along the way."

GEIST: Off the court, Magic has been a champion of causes within the gay and lesbian community for decades, most notably for his active voice in the fight against HIV/AIDS. And now, with the support of such a beloved icon, there is renewed hope that this will help break the taboo of open sexuality in the sports world. Whatever the larger impact may be, Magic's words certainly have made their mark closer to home. Wednesday, his son E.J. tweeted, "In the midst of all this media attention, I would like to say that I am truly blessed to have parents that love and support me."

JOHNSON: This was a good moment for us as a family, and a greater moment for him.

GEIST: There remain no openly gay players in any of the major professional team sports. But Magic said in that interview yesterday he expects that to change and soon.

Meanwhile, current Lakers star Kobe Bryant said, quote, "Of course Magic is supportive of and loves his son. Why should anybody be surprised? What I can't tolerate is a lack of tolerance."

And you watch that interview, I encourage people to go watch it, it is pure unadulterated love from Magic Johnson to his son.

LAUER: And what you just said is so important, there are no openly gay players, but there are lots of gay athletes in major sports, and the fact that they still feel as if they'll be ostracized if they come out is – says something about the times we're living in.

GEIST: It does. And Magic went out of his way in that interview as well to say, "My door is open, not just if you play for Dodgers," which he co-owns, "if you are gay, come to me, we'll figure out how to approach this the same way I approached HIV/AIDS."

SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: And when you hear about how relieved E.J. was to have that out in the open, I think everybody can relate to that. Willie, thank you so much.

Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC