The Johnsons: EJ, Magic, Cookie, and Elisa in 2009. (WireImage)
The 20-year-old New York University student's sexual orientation made headlines on Tuesday after he was spotted holding hands with his boyfriend in West Hollywood … and now the NBA legend says that he could not be any prouder.
In a new sit-down interview with TMZ's Harvey Levin, Johnson reveals that he and his wife Cookie had "the talk" with their eldest child when he was around 12 or 13-years-old because they believed he was gay and they wanted him to know that they completely supported him.
"I told him, 'Look, I'm gonna love you regardless, just let me know. Are you, or aren't you?'" explains the 53-year-old. "And finally he said, 'Yes, I am.'"
Acknowledging that the pivotal conversation was "hard," primarily because EJ was so young, Johnson – who has long been an ally to the LGBT community since finding out he was HIV-positive in 1991 – adds that he told his son, "'We are gonna love no matter who you are, what you do. We just want you to love yourself and also make sure that you have all the information.' I wanted to provide him with advice and guidance."
After the talk, EJ breathed a big sigh of relief because he had been worried about his father's reaction, since he was a massive sports star. "He really wanted to make sure I was OK," adds Johnson. "He wasn't worried about his mom, he was worried about me."
But EJ had nothing to worry about, insists his dad. "I love EJ so much. That's my main man. I told him, 'Nothing has changed.'"
And now that the world knows what the Johnson family has for years, EJ feels even more at ease with being who he truly is. Johnson says that EJ being seen out with his boyfriend "was a moment for us as a family and an even greater moment for him. I think now he's just the bubbly kid we knew again. He's just happy that it is out. I'm behind him a million percent. This is really wonderful for him."
Naturally, not everyone was as happy and supportive. In the interview with TMZ, Johnson addresses backlash EJ has received, mostly from the African-American community. "It bothers me that they're discriminating against anybody who's gay," he explained. "I've been in the gay movement for a long time because of HIV and AIDS. I see young men who are black who couldn't come out, who couldn't tell their parents, their neighbors. So now, it's my son."
Johnson, who owns the L.A. Dodgers baseball team, also expressed his feelings on homophobia in sports and that he hopes EJ's coming out will inspire others … and also inspire tolerance. "As I told EJ, 'This is going to be bigger than you. We can't see it now. You're not going to know your impact, but you're going to have an impact.' If a player ever wants to talk to me – whether he's on the Dodgers or not – about coming out, or life, my door is always open."
PHOTO GALLERY: OUT AND PROUD IN HOLLYWOOD
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