News & Opinion | June 12, 2020 1:08 pm

Nike Just Made Juneteenth an Annual Paid Holiday

The brand joins Twitter, Square and the NFL in recognizing the day slavery ended in America

Nike brand storefront
Nike CEO John Donahoe announced the new Juneteenth policy on Thursday.
Thomas Serer/Unsplash

Nike CEO John Donahoe announced in a company-wide memo on Thursday that Juneteenth will now be a paid holiday for all employees, Forbes reported. Observed annually on June 19, Juneteenth commemorates the emancipation of the last enslaved African Americans in the Confederacy. Nike is one of the latest global brands to officially recognize the day, following a tweet from CEO Jack Dorsey earlier this week that his companies Twitter and Square would make Juneteenth “a company holiday in the US, forevermore,” and the NFL, which released a statement this morning.

For his part, Donahoe explained Nike’s need to step up and support the Black community. Donahoe wrote: “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. Simply put, we need to hold ourselves to a high standard given the heritage of our company and our brand.”

Despite accusations of virtue signaling over the years — Nike loves a thought-provoking advert — the Swoosh has remained outwardly committed to causes of social justice, and to standing by its Black athletes. For instance, the brand has endorsed Colin Kaepernick, without fail, since 2011. And after shouts from a Fox News personality aimed at LeBron James (“Shut up and dribble!”), Nike helped James organize his global “More Than an Athlete” tour. It’s clear, though, that Nike wants to do more. It pledged $40 million to the Black community last week, has promised $100 million over the next 10 years, for organizations that champion racial equality and education access — of which the Jordan Brand will contribute $50 million — and is in the process of launching a comprehensive in-house diversity initiative.

“As I have listened deeply during my first six months and over the past few weeks, what I have learned is that many have felt a disconnect between our external brand and your internal experience. You have told me that we have not consistently supported, recognized and celebrated our own Black teammates in a manner they deserve. This needs to change,” Donahoe wrote.

Those words are a strong sign from Donahoe — who became the CEO of Nike this past January after stints at Bain & Co and eBay — that he’s prepared to meet this incredibly important moment. Meanwhile, other companies looking to join Nike, the NFL, Twitter and Square (and it’s likely that there will be many) can actually receive public recognition, and help spread the word, by filling out Twitter’s “Juneteenth Employer Recognition” form, which is available on AirTable here.

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