UTEP men's basketball coach Rodney Terry held a powerful press conference on Wednesday, addressing the George Floyd killing by a Minneapolis police officer last week and advocated for racial justice in America.

Terry also reiterated his thoughts on Wednesday's edition of SportsTalk.

The press conference came three days after Terry posted a strong message on social media in response to the ongoing protests and the Black Lives Matter movement.

"When you don't speak out when you have this platform, you can't be afraid to stick your neck out when you know it's right," Terry told reporters on Wednesday via a virtual press conference.

Terry—who coaches a historic program for civil rights, as the 1966 title team became the first team in NCAA history to start five African American players in the championship game—explained how Floyd's death hit especially close to him personally.

"George Floyd could have been Rodney Terry," Terry said. "I grew up in the same type of neighborhood he grew up in, predominantly an all-black neighborhood. It could have been my nephew, it could have been my brother, it could have been one of my players. I guess I'm here today to talk about—enough is enough. With this being in the forefront right now, (it's important) we try to create some change and try to have more of an open look about racism in America."

As a mentor and leader of young student-athletes, Terry puts the responsibility on his staff to be a leader in advocating for racial issues in this country.

"We're working with young people who hopefully will go out and be great leaders and do the same thing we're trying to do from a leadership standpoint: Teaching people to hold people accountable," Terry said.

But accountability is where Terry's frustrations in the justice system stem from.

"The thing that frustrates the black community has been the injustice of the perpetrators of those actions, we haven't seen those guys get prosecuted or punished for their crime," Terry explained. "A wrong is a wrong. In this situation it was very visible, it hit home to all of us, you have three guys standing on top of one guy and one guy watching it...We've seen before a system we feel has failed us in terms of prosecuting someone who has done a wrong."

Even though he is unsure about his players attending protests, he is supporting the Miners to protest in a peaceful, safe manner, if they feel compelled to do so. Some of the team members are currently home and away from the university.

"I strongly encourage our guys to be active. Our guys are all around the country right now, they are all spread out. I told them I'll never be one to say, you can't go out and be part of a protest. I encouraged those guys if they want to go out and be active right now. The one thing I did encourage those guys, don't put yourselves in harm's way. Go out and have your voice heard, be peaceful, understand how important it is to have a voice. But also know we're in a pandemic. We still have COVID-19 out there as well, so it's important you pay attention to your health as well." - Rodney Terry, UTEP basketball head coach.

"I encourage all our guys to be active and be a part of what's going on right now, to be active and have their voices heard in a peaceful way."

In addition to speaking with the media Wednesday, Terry joined UTEP's Student Engagement & Leadership Center on a panel discussion about racism and injustice in America.


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