In their own words; Borderland athletes, coaches discuss racial injustices

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EL PASO, TEXAS (KTSM) – Over the last week, millions have participated in mass protests against racial injustice, not only in America, but around the globe, after the tragic death of George Floyd while in police custody in Minneapolis on Memorial Day.

The four officers involved in Floyd’s death have all been arrested and charged in his death; the man who was seen kneeling on Floyd’s neck for nearly 9 minutes, Derek Chauvin, has been charged with second degree murder, while the other three officers involved face charges of aiding and abetting murder.

Floyd’s death has sparked sadness, anger and a call for immediate change after many years of racial injustices experienced by black men, women and other people of color, not only at the hands of police, but in the nation as a whole.

Those emotions are felt here in the Borderland, too. UTEP men’s basketball coach Rodney Terry; New Mexico State men’s basketball assistant coach Corey Barker and Aggies junior guard Jabari Rice; Chapin boys basketball coach Rodney Lewis; and Las Cruces boys basketball coach William Benjamin spoke with KTSM to share, in their own words, what they are currently feeling after Floyd’s death, and how the entire nation can move forward and address racism, while also remembering the United States’ haunting past.

The coaches and players joined KTSM’s Colin Deaver for multiple long conversations; the video above has been trimmed down to a 12-minute, first-person narrative from all five men. Below is a transcript of just a portion of their answers:

Rodney Terry: “George Floyd could’ve been Rodney Terry. I grew up in the same kind of neighborhood he grew up in, a predominantly black neighborhood. It could’ve been my brother, it could’ve been my nephew, it could’ve been one of my players.”

Corey Barker: “The fact that you heard his words and what he said, it was painful. It was up close and personal.”

William Benjamin: “When do young black boys stop being cute? When do black men start being viewed as a threat? I’m also raising 2 daughters. If they can racially profile my son and pull him out of the car, and do whatever, what the hell will they do to my daughters?”

Jabari Rice: I feel like it’s important that we stand up and give our opinion on what’s going on because so many people watch and follow us. If they can support us on the court, this is so much easier to support us with.”

Rodney Lewis: “Our athletes stand up, and then they’re told shut up, sit down, because you’re making a million dollars in this country. whatever protest we do is not good enough. Kaepernick took a knee and people are still mad at Kaepernick for taking a knee.”

William Benjamin: “Mr. Floyd was just the spark. Now everyone’s eyes are open, but more importantly, everyone’s minds.”

Corey Barker: “I think and believe his death will be a game-changer for the United States of America. I really do.”

Rodney Lewis: “Hold the people that are doing these things accountable. Be consistent across the board.”

Rodney Terry: “I think that’s the big thing right now through protests and being very active, that’s the one message we want to get across is that we want justice and we want the system to give us justice.”

Rodney Lewis: “What’s more beautiful about this situation to me is when I see other countries around the world that are protesting. They get it more than we get it.”

Jabari Rice: “Silence is volence. So if you’re not speaking up, then what are you doing? You bring no change when you say nothing.”

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