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NFL to Observe Juneteenth as a Holiday, Will Close Offices

June 19 commemorates the end of slavery

The NFL will observe June 19, known as “Juneteenth” as an official holiday, closing its offices.

Juneteenth, also known as “Freedom Day,” is the yearly celebration that marks the end of slavery in the United States.

“The power of this historical feet 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,” NFL commissioner Roger Goodell wrote in a memo Friday. “Juneteenth not only marks the end of slavery in the United States, but it also symbolizes freedom — a freedom that was delayed, and brutally resisted; and though decades of progress followed, a freedom for which we much continue to fight.”

Though President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation was signed into order in 1863, slavery still persisted throughout the Civil War in the South. June 19, 1965 marks the day that Union general Gordon Granger told enslaved African-Americans in Texas that they were now free men. It has since become the day reserved to commemorate the abolishment of slavery, which was made official with the ratification of the 13th Amendment.

The announcement comes one day after the NFL pledged $250 million over a 10-year period to “combat systemic racism.”  

The NFL and our clubs will continue to work collaboratively with NFL players to support programs to address criminal justice reform, police reforms, and economic and educational advancement.  In addition to the financial commitment, we will continue to leverage the NFL Network and all of our media properties to place an increased emphasis on raising awareness and promoting education of social justice issues to our fans and help foster unity,” the league said on Thursday.

The league’s increased focus on social justice as led to hopes that Colin Kaepernick, the first athlete to take a knee during the National Anthem to protest police brutality against minorities, will get signed by an NFL club. He has not been on an NFL roster nor received a contract offer since the end of the 2016 season.