TORONTO (AP) On the anniversary of Nelson Mandela's death, basketball Hall of Famer Magic Johnson said the late South African leader's message of peace could help heal the ''distrust and disconnect'' that has led to days of protests across the United States.
A three-time NBA MVP and the co-owner of baseball's Los Angeles Dodgers, Johnson was in Toronto on Friday to attend The Giant of Africa, an event honoring Mandela's legacy.
The event, held before the Toronto Raptors played the Cleveland Cavaliers, was hosted by Raptors general manager Masai Ujiri, the first African-born GM of a North American team. Among those in attendance were former NBA stars Dikembe Mutombo, Charles Barkley and Tracy McGrady, Maple Leafs president Brendan Shanahan, Maple Leafs goalie Jonathan Bernier, and Amadou Fall, the NBA's vice president of development in Africa.
Johnson said Mandela, a Nobel Peace Prize winner who became President of South Africa after spending 27 years in prison during the apartheid regime, was ''a master'' at bringing people together to facilitate change. The same approach, Johnson said, could help heal the racial tensions stoked by high-profile deaths in Ferguson, Missouri, and New York City that have led to rioting, looting and clashes between protesters and police.
''It's going to be important that these meetings take place and we can really bring about serious change because the distrust and the disconnect is huge,'' Johnson said. ''Make no mistake about it, it's bigger than we've seen on TV.
''Blacks don't think that they're ever going to get a fair shake,'' Johnson said. ''They think every time the police is coming it's going to be trouble, so we've got to really make sure that we can bring about serious change on everybody's side.''
Mandela died last Dec. 5 after a long illness. He was 95.