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Nike Makes Juneteenth a Paid Holiday in Latest Diversity Push

As protests and discussions surrounding social justice and racial equality continue, Nike is taking a stand to honor a nationwide celebration of freedom for the African-American community.

On Friday, June 19, citizens across the country will observe the anniversary of the day that 200,000 Texan slaves received the news from Union soldiers that they were freed by the Emancipation Proclamation in 1865—a holiday that has been nicknamed Juneteenth.

In a memo circulated Thursday that addressed Nike’s forward-looking strategy in continuing conversations about race, CEO John Donahoe announced that Juneteenth will become a paid holiday for all employees.

In the memo seen by Bloomberg News, Donahoe acknowledged that the company’s employees have raised concerns over a “disconnect” between Nike’s public-facing actions and its company-wide practices.

“When we say that Black Lives Matter, it applies to the world outside of Nike and, importantly, it applies to our black teammates within Nike,” Donahoe wrote. “Simply put, we need to hold ourselves to a high standard given the heritage of our company and our brand.”

Earlier this month, Nike and Jordan Brands jointly announced plans to donate $100 million over the course of the next 10 years to organizations ensuring social justice and access to education. Nike also committed to contributing $40 million over the next four years on behalf of all its brands to efforts to organizations fighting for racial equality across the country.

“Systemic racism and the events that have unfolded across America over the past few weeks serve as an urgent reminder of the continued change needed in our society,” Donahoe said in a statement announcing the effort. “We know Black Lives Matter. We must educate ourselves more deeply on the issues faced by Black communities and understand the enormous suffering and senseless tragedy racial bigotry creates.

“The Nike, Inc. family can always do more but will never stop striving to role model how a diverse company acts,” he added. “We will continue our focus on being more representative of our consumers while doing our part in the communities we serve.”

The donation announcements came in the wake of an ad that ran on May 29. Nike attempted to address the issue of systemic racism with a one-minute ad that led with the revamped slogan, “Don’t Do It.” The video’s copy asked viewers to acknowledge the country’s issues with racism and encouraged them to “be part of the change” without stating a plan of action.