Johnson Drives For Diversity

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - The National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing today announced that Earvin "Magic" Johnson will serve as co-chairman to the newly-created Executive Steering Committee for Diversity. Johnson, the NBA legend and CEO of Magic Johnson Enterprises, will be active in a number of areas related to diversifying NASCAR's fan base, participants and work force.

Johnson is known universally for his illustrious 13-year professional NBA career with the Los Angeles Lakers, but he has re-defined himself as a successful businessman. The Magic Johnson brand has become one of the most expansive and successful business networks in the country. The brand stimulates economic growth and development through education, community enrichment and franchise development. Magic Johnson Enterprises is responsible for the direction and expansion of the Magic Johnson brand. The team oversees marketing and other business opportunities for the brand including endorsements, licensing and speaking engagements. Johnson also heads Johnson Development Corporation and Magic Johnson Entertainment.

Specifically, Johnson will:

  • Help complete selection of the Executive Steering Committee for Diversity

  • Assist NASCAR with creating grassroots programs such as Drive for Diversity that identify and develop African American, Hispanic and women drivers and crew members

  • Help NASCAR develop marketing programs that will increase the sport's visibility in urban communities and raise awareness of career and competitive opportunities in motorsports

  • Serve as an advisor to NASCAR Chief Operating Officer George Pyne who has day-to-day operational responsibilities for all aspects of diversity in NASCAR

    "Over the last few years, NASCAR has been working with industry leaders to provide meaningful opportunities for everyone to be a part of the NASCAR community. Today, we take another step in welcoming Magic Johnson to the NASCAR family. Magic will have a hands-on role in helping to increase diversity within our sport," said George Pyne, chief operating officer of NASCAR. "Magic will help NASCAR achieve its goals to better educate new audiences and facilitate greater participation among the industry and communities of color. He will make a real difference in helping us to make all Americans NASCAR fans."

    "As a child, I spent countless hours attending racing events with my father, and my strong interest in motorsports is still connected to those fond memories," Johnson said. "I am impressed with NASCAR's strong commitment to diversity. I plan to build upon the existing initiatives and develop an urban marketing strategy. This will give real opportunities for all people to participate in the sport as fans, drivers, crew members and many other positions."

    NASCAR also announced the successful launch and funding for the 2004 Drive for Diversity program managed by Access Communications. The Drive for Diversity program seeks to identify and select minority and women drivers and crew members to compete in NASCAR sanctioned races. Already, Drive for Diversity has five drivers and six crew members competing in the NASCAR Dodge Weekly Series and the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series respectively. The drivers and crew members were selected as a result of their outstanding performance during a competition "combine" held last January in Hickory, N.C.

    The driver program includes:

    Morty Buckles drives for the Belnavis Racing sponsored by the National Guard and Domino's; Allison Duncan drives for BH Motorsports sponsored by Sunoco/Miller Brewing and Domino's; Joe Henderson drives for Bobby Hamilton Racing sponsored by Kodak and Domino's; Reggie Primus drives for Innovative Motorsports sponsored by Lowe's and Domino's; and, Bruce Driver drives for SCORE Motorsports sponsored by MBNA/Centrix and Domino's.

    David Cropps, tire changer for Innovative Motorsports; Robert Johnson, who is in training with Roush Racing; Calvin Gravely, second can for HT Motorsports; Tommy Lane with SCORE Motorsports, responsible for pit sign for HT Motorsports; Cesar Villanueva, tire changer for Morgan-Dollar Motorsports; and, Amar Johnson, jackman for Montgomery Motorsports.

    "These individuals should be very proud. They are NASCAR's new pioneers and I look forward to following their careers," said Johnson.

    "Special recognition must also be given to the owners and sponsors of this inaugural class of the Drive for Diversity program," added Pyne. "Clearly, the program could not be possible without the support and encouragement of its sponsors which include: Centrix, Dominos, Husqvarna, Kodak, Lowe's, Miller Brewing, MBNA, National Guard, Nextel and Sunoco and the owners that include Belnavis Racing; BH Motorsports, Bobby Hamilton Racing; Innovative Motorsports; SCORE Motorsports; Roush Racing; HT Motorsports; Morgan-Dollar Motorsports; and, Montgomery Motorsports."

    Additional initiatives in which NASCAR has taken a leadership role include: activation of a supplier diversity program; creation of the NASCAR Diversity Internship Program; funding for scholarships to Historically Black Colleges and Universities and Hispanic Serving Institutions; support of the NASCAR College Tour presented by The Coca-Cola Company; support of civil rights organizations; and support of the Urban Youth Racing School, which is based in Philadelphia, and provides inner-city youths with the opportunity to learn about motorsports.

    With NASCAR's ethnic fan base consistently growing over the last seven years, NASCAR is the fastest-growing sport among African-Americans and Hispanics, according to independent research. Approximately 25 percent of NASCAR fans today are people of color, according to an ESPN/Chilton poll (2002). African American fans have increased 18 % — approximately 2 million people — since 1995. Hispanic fans have increased 38 % — approximately 3 million people — since 1996.

    Philanthropy has always been important to Johnson. He founded the Magic Johnson Foundation (MJF) in 1991 as a single-disease organization that worked to raise funds for community-based organizations dealing with HIV/AIDS education and prevention programs. The Foundation has since responded to the growing need to address the major health issues affecting people of color including prostate cancer, hypertension, youth obesity and diabetes. In addition to health programs, MJF also provides programs to meet the educational needs of urban residents. The programs include scholarships and technology grants to individuals and community-based organizations that have demonstrated a commitment to the communities in which they serve.
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