NFL to Acknowledge Juneteenth as an Official League Holiday For 1st Time

Getty Members of the parade perform during the 48th Annual Juneteenth Day Festival on June 19, 2019 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell issued a statement Friday to announce that the league will observe the African-American holiday, “Juneteenth” on June 19th as an official holiday, closing the league offices and taking the day to reflect on the past and think toward “a better future.”

ESPN’s Adam Schefter tweeted the statement on his Twitter feed.

The holiday has ebbed and flowed over the centuries, with celebrations going strong shortly after slaves were emancipated, then dissolving on a large scale for decades, then resurged again during the civil rights movement of the 1950s and sixties, according to the website, Juneteenth.

The holiday is recognized as a state national holiday in 46 states, but it is not listed as a national holiday. Hawaii, North Dakota, South Dakota and Montana do not recognize the day.

Juneteenth is a festive celebration involving cook-outs, block parties, parades, friends, and family.

Goodell Said the NFL is Working to ‘Combat the Racial Injustices That Remain Deeply Rooted Into the Fabric of Our Society’

GettyMILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN – JUNE 19: The parade passes by a painting of Martin Luther King Jr. during the 48th Annual Juneteenth Day Festival on June 19, 2019 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images for VIBE)

Goodell’s statement comes on the heels of the NFL‘s “Expanded Social Justice Commitment” issued on June 11.

In that statement, the organization said that they’re dedicating $250 million over a 10-year-period “to combat systemic racism and support the battle against the ongoing and historic injustices faced by African-Americans.”

As part of those reformations, the statement says the NFL and its clubs will support programs that address criminal justice reform, police reforms, and economic and educational advancement.”

While Black Players Dominate the Racial Make-up of NFL Players, Coaches and Owners are Still Overwhelmingly White

GettyWashington Redskins players kneel as Maurice Smith #46 of the Washington Redskins is put on a cart after being injured in the first quarter against the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium on December 29, 2019 in Arlington, Texas.

According to the 2019 Racial and Gender Report Card for the National Football League, 58.9% of players identified as black in a questionnaire. Another 9.1% said they were mixed, and 3.1% declined to report their race. The option to choose one or more races or to decline to answer was a first in 2019, so according to the report, the percentage of African America is less than in previous years. The total percentage of people of color who play for the NFL is 70%.

Another NFL report published on Diversity and Inclusion in hiring said, “Since the start of the 1963 NFL season, 112 white individuals have been hired as an NFL head coach, offensive coordinator or defensive coordinator…whereas only 18 men of color have been hired as an NFL head coach, offensive coordinator or defensive coordinator after a first head coach opportunity.”

Goodell Said in His Statement, ‘We Must Continue to Fight’ For the Freedoms Celebrated on Juneteenth

GettyNFL Commissioner Roger Goodell looks on before Super Bowl LIV between the Kansas City Chiefs and the San Francisco 49ers at Hard Rock Stadium on February 02, 2020 in Miami, Florida.

In Goodell’s announcement, he exalts the freedoms won by the slaves following the civil war but says there is still work to be done.

You can read the entire statement here:

Juneteenth, celebrated annually on June 19th commemorates the effective end of slavery in the United States. Though the Emancipation Proclamation, made effective by President Lincoln on January 1, 1863, declared that all persons held as slaves be freed, slavery persisted throughout the course of the Civil War. It was not until two and a half years later, on June 19th, 1865, when Union soldiers landed in Galveston, Texas and declared the war to be over, that all of those enslaved became free.

The power of this historical feat in our country’s blemished history is felt each year, but there is no question that the magnitude of this event weighs even more heavily today in the current climate. Juneteenth not only marks the end of slavery in the United States, but it also symbolizes freedom — freedom that was delayed, and brutally resisted; and though decades of progress followed, freedom for which we must continue to fight.

“This year, as we work together as a family and in our communities to combat the racial injustices that remain deeply rooted into the fabric of our society, the NFL will observe Juneteenth on Friday, June 19th as a recognized holiday and our league offices will be closed. It is a day to reflect on our past, but more importantly, consider how each one of us can continue to show up and band together to work toward a better future.

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