Juneteenth is now an official holiday for the NFL.  In celebration of the day the last slaves in Texas were freed on June 19, 1865, the NFL has decided to mark the occasion by shutting down its offices and operations on Thursday.

Teams are welcome to follow in the league’s footsteps, and some have already joined in.  It’s a shame that it took the death of men like George Floyd before eyes were opened.

The Emancipation Proclamation And The NFL

For those familiar with history during the Civil War era, they may notice that the Emancipation Proclamation was actually signed two years earlier.  However, things typically move slower in Texas, and the Lone Star State didn’t join the rest of the country until it had brought its own battles to an end.  Now, almost 160 years later, the abolishment of slavery is making headlines again, and the NFL is ready to stand up and show its support for racial equality.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, who has been more vocal on the subject in the past couple of weeks than ever before, said in a statement about Juneteenth, “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.

“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 — a freedom that was delayed, and brutally resisted; and though decades of progress followed, a freedom for which we must continue to fight.”

NFL Teams Sign On To Juneteenth

A handful of NFL teams have already voiced their support for the league’s Juneteenth initiative.  Among those agreeing to mark tomorrow as a holiday are the Washington Redskins (the first team to speak up), the Kansas City Chiefs, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Denver Broncos and many more.  So far, 17 teams have signed on to mark the official recognition of the end of slavery, with some, like the Tennessee Titans, also giving their employees a couple of weeks off.  The New England Patriots, though, have not yet publicly announced their support.

When the Bucs announced their participation, they released a tweet that reads, “On Friday, June 19 the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will close the team’s offices to recognize Juneteenth.  We must be purposeful in our reflection, acknowledgement and efforts towards achieving collective change in society. As we work together in this process, we must re-examine all manners in which cultural inequalities that have existed for centuries continue to impact race relations.”

NFL players are happy to see the league, and Goodell, take a stand, even if some feel its decision should have been made years ago.  Larry Fitzgerald of the Arizona Cardinals said in a recent interview, “I’ve developed a really strong relationship with [Goodell] and I feel like his heart is in the right place.  He wants to be on the right side of history. He wants to make sure he’s doing things that position our game to continue to grow and to be a game that’s loved and appreciated by everyone; trying to find that harmony. I’m happy that we’re trending in the right direction on this issue. It helps that we continue to gain traction by doing things like recognizing Juneteenth and other things that are important to not only African-Americans, but everybody that loves and watches the game.”