While resigning as Lakers president, Magic Johnson preemptively denied he mistreated employees, as a forthcoming report was believed to allege.
As word spread through the Lakers’ organization and the NBA, several people wondered whether Johnson’s departure was related to a yet-to-be-published article by ESPN that is said to address allegations about Johnson’s conduct with employees.
“That story is wrong,” Johnson told the Los Angeles Times.
He later added to a group of reporters: “Never disrespected anybody. Never did anything bad. Am I tough? Hell, yeah! You work for me, I’m demanding. But at the same time I’m fair. They’ve been talking about that article for how many months? Everybody running, ‘Oh they’re writing an article.’ I’m gonna say, why didn’t they interview anybody at ESPN? If I was doing something wrong to employees disrespecting, this or that, think they would’ve hired me twice?”
That report is finally here.
If you questioned him on anything, his response was always a threatening tone,” said a Lakers front office staffer who interacted with Johnson directly. “He used intimidation and bullying as a way of showing authority.”
in 2017, a longtime female staffer was called into an office with Johnson and Pelinka after making a mistake, according to multiple staffers present and others familiar with the incident. The mistake, sources said, involved arranging a car service to the team’s facility for a draft prospect “I don’t stand for mistakes!” Johnson shouted at her. “I don’t make mistakes.”
Johnson also made clear, according to multiple people familiar with the exchange, that if the staffer made one more mistake, she would be fired.
In the office, the staffer apologized and later, off site, began to cry, according to multiple people with knowledge of the incident. In the months ahead, she would suffer increased anxiety and panic attacks. She was prescribed anti-anxiety medication, quit the Lakers after more than two decades with the team, and began several weeks of therapy, multiple people familiar with the matter said.
A Lakers executive said he also suffered panic attacks and had to be prescribed anti-anxiety medication. “Every day you go in there and you get this horrible feeling of anxiety,” the executive said. “In the last year, I can’t tell you how many panic attacks I’ve had from the s— that has happened there.”
A Lakers spokesperson said Johnson wasn’t reprimanded for unprofessional workplace behavior and that no official complaints were filed. The NBA also has not received complaints about Johnson through its confidential hotline or through any other means, a league spokesperson said, nor has the league investigated the Lakers in the past two seasons for issues related to its workplace environment.
Several Lakers staffers, both current and former, said they didn’t feel comfortable going to the team’s human resources department with complaints because they feared reprisal and doubted complaints would make an impact. Several staffers said that feeling represented a general consensus in the office.
The Los Angeles Lakers dumpster fire continues to burn hot and bright.
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