Earvin “Magic” Johnson, National Basketball Association legend and Michigan native, on Saturday ripped President Donald Trump for his record on combating the COVID-19 pandemic during a campaign event for Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden on Detroit’s lower east side. 

“Trump never had a plan,” Johnson said during the hour-long town outdoor hall meeting before a small group of socially distanced news reporters and neighborhood members next door to Rayfield’s Barber Shop. “[He] still doesn’t listen to the doctors and scientists about how to address this pandemic and keep us safe.” 

In Michigan, state health officials confirmed a total of 144,897 coronavirus cases on Saturday, part of an upward trend. The state has experienced 7,010 deaths. 

Johnson, a Lansing native, led Michigan State University men’s basketball team to a national championship in 1979. He was joined by Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist, Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon, state Rep. Jewell Jones (D-Inkster) and Detroit community activist Teferi Brent as part of the Biden campaign’s “Shop Talk” series for Black men. 

Earvin “Magic” Johnson campaigns for Joe Biden in Detroit on Oct. 17, 2020| Ken Coleman photo

Gilchrist said that the event was designed to encourage African-American voters and others to cast their ballot for Biden.  

“It’s important having some like [Johnson], who is esteemed in our community,” Gilchrist said. “For him to talk about not only the importance of voting but to talk about how he is using his platform, about how all of us have a platform, I think is inspirational.” 

Biden visited metro Detroit on Friday and focused on expanding health care. It was the former vice president’s third Michigan campaign stop since securing his party’s nomination in August. He last visited Michigan on Oct. 2. His wife, Jill Biden, is slated to campaign in Michigan Tuesday, but the campaign has not announced details.

After a highly successful professional basketball career where he earned five league championship titles, Johnson has become a business giant. Earlier this year, he announced that he would offer $100 million in loans to minority-owned businesses left out of the COVID-19 government relief fund program known as Paycheck Protection Program.

Rayfield’s Barber Shop in Detroit, which was the site for a Oct. 17, 2020 Biden for president campaign event. | Ken Coleman photo

Tynetta Johnson, whose father opened the Detroit barber shop in 1967, said that she supports Biden and was excited to host Johnson. 

“It was incredible to have Magic here today,” she said. “We’re so blessed to have him.” 

On Friday, Biden said at Beech Woods Recreation Center in Southfield that Trump is not doing enough to combat the COVID-19 pandemic and to call out racism and hatred in the country. Biden also lifted up the Obama-era law, the Affordable Care Act (ACA). 

“If Trump gets his way, 20 million more Americans will lose their health care in the midst of this god-awful economic crisis,” Biden said about the ACA, the 2011 Obama-era law that reformed the health insurance system. Biden served as Barack Obama’s vice president for two terms. 

Trump to stump in Muskegon

Biden later campaigned during a COVID-19-era mobile car rally at the Michigan State Fairgrounds in Detroit. He encouraged people to vote early.  

“No matter what, don’t let anybody discourage you and tell you your vote doesn’t count, because it does,” Biden said. 

“It’s time to unite America, it really is.”

Biden leads Trump by 8 points in FiveThirtyEight’s polling average. However, Trump won Michigan by a narrow 10,704 votes over 2016 Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. Election day is Nov. 3, but almost 1 million Michiganders have already voted early.  

Meanwhile, Trump visited the Muskegon area on Saturday evening for a rally. Vice President Mike Pence made a campaign stop in Grand Rapids on Wednesday. Trump’s daughter, Ivanka Trump, is slated to come to Alto in West Michigan on Monday.

Ken Coleman
Ken Coleman covers Southeast Michigan, economic justice and civil rights. He is a former Michigan Chronicle senior editor and served as the American Black Journal segment host on Detroit Public Television. He has written and published four books on black life in Detroit, including Soul on Air: Blacks Who Helped to Define Radio in Detroit and Forever Young: A Coleman Reader. His work has been cited by the Detroit News, Detroit Free Press, History Channel and CNN. Additionally, he was an essayist for the award-winning book, Detroit 1967: Origins, Impacts, Legacies. Ken has served as a spokesperson for the Michigan Democratic Party, Detroit Public Schools, U.S. Sen. Gary Peters and U.S. Rep. Brenda Lawrence. Previously to joining the Advance, he worked for the Detroit Federation of Teachers as a communications specialist. He is a Historical Society of Michigan trustee and a Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metropolitan Detroit advisory board member.