The NFL will recognize Juneteenth, or June 19, as a paid company holiday as part of its effort to address systemic racism, Commissioner Roger Goodell said in an internal memo.
League offices will be closed on that day in observance of the holiday. Juneteenth is celebrated annually to commemorate the end of slavery in the United States. President Abraham Lincoln declared all slaves were free through the Emancipation Proclamation on Jan. 1, 1863, but June 19 marked the date later that year when Union soldiers announced the order in Galveston, Texas, at the end of the Civil War.
“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,” Goodell said in the memo.
The league’s decision came one day after it pledged $250 million over the next 10 years to combat systemic racism and injustice. In addition to the financial commitment, the NFL said it would use its media properties, including NFL Network, to raise awareness and promote unity on social justice causes.
The NFL is the latest of several corporate entities to declare Juneteenth a company holiday in recent days. Nike, Twitter and payments service Square also recently adopted that policy.
Earlier this month, Goodell recorded a video apology for the manner in which the league handled player protests in the past. In the video, Goodell encouraged players to “peacefully protest” in the future but did not specifically reference kneeling protests during the national anthem that prompted a nationwide debate.