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Crucial Conversations: Mercer basketball coaches speak on injustice

Susie Gardner and Greg Gary want their players to feel supported during times of racial injustice.

MACON, Ga. — In light of everything that's happening in our community, 13WMAZ wants to offer space in our newscast  and on our website for people to offer perspective and hope.

We know how important communication is at this moment in time so change can occur. We are calling these segments "Crucial Conversations."

Sports is often the bridge between people of different backgrounds and coaches can hold significant influence for their teams and their communities.

Wednesday, Avery Braxton spoke with Mercer basketball coaches Susie Gardner and Greg Gary about how the response to George Floyd's death has affected their teams.

Over the last few days, both coaches posted statements on social media about the importance of supporting their players and staffs of diverse backgrounds.

"There was no excuses anybody could say. In the previous police brutality injustices, yes they were completely wrong, but this one was sickening, to be honest with you," Gary said. "I felt like just being able to start the communication and not be scared of it and that's OK."

Gardner's statement has a clear message, action must follow words.

"I always tell my team and my staff, 'Don't bring me the problem. What's the solution?' Anyone can state the problem so mine was more I will act. What that means and what that looks like today, I'm still not sure but we've started this conversation with our players with our team," Gardner said. "We feel frustrated. We want to do something and the way I'm approaching it is I want to start with my team and try to start the process there and then perhaps it will spread to the Mercer campus and then to Macon and so on."

Both coaches recognize that their university and other schools have a responsibility to be a supportive team for their athletes when issues of racial injustice and police brutality occur.

"You've got to back them, you have to be in their corner. I think that's number one and whether they're white, black or whatever you have to do the same thing for each one of them and that can't deviate," Gary said.

"They've got to feel that the people on the mercer campus respect and love them, not as athletes, not as athletes but as human beings first and I think as coaches we try to do that. We talk about family all the time, but this has taken family to a different level. This has really taken family to a different level," Gardner said.

Both coaches stated they plan on communicating and meeting with their players more to better understand the best ways to support them.

RELATED: 'We are united': Hundreds march for change through Macon's downtown

RELATED: Crucial Conversations: Rev. Walter Glover Jr. speaks on injustice, protests

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