The NBA has given employees paid time off for Juneteenth for the first time in league history.
The NBA’s hope on the June 19 holiday is to give employees a chance to reflect on black history and the current state of race in the United States.
Juneteenth celebrates the commemoration of the end of slavery in the United States dating back to June 19, 1865. On that day, Union soldiers arrived in Galveston, Texas, with news that the Civil War had ended and that the enslaved were now free, two years after President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation ended slavery on Jan. 1, 1863.
On Friday, NBA employees will be invited to watch a virtual screening of John Lewis: Good Trouble, a film chronicling Rep. John Lewis’ 60-plus years of social activism and legislative action on civil rights, voting rights, gun control, health care reform and immigration. NBA teams have also been offered the opportunity to take part in the virtual event featuring a prerecorded Q&A discussion with Lewis.
In addition, the Atlanta Hawks, Miami Heat, Sacramento Kings, Orlando Magic, Denver Nuggets, Washington Wizards, Golden State Warriors, Sacramento Kings, New York Knicks and Utah Jazz are all recognizing Juneteenth in some fashion. The Wizards and Washington Mystics are expected to walk from the Capital One Arena in Washington to the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial on Friday morning. The Knicks joined forces with the New York Rangers to host an MLK youth panel on Thursday with former Knicks star Allan Houston and general manager Scott Perry.
The Jr. NBA, in partnership with RISE and the NBA Coaches Association, will also host a private discussion with youth basketball coaches and former Knicks head coach David Fizdale on Friday about race, equality and the impact of systemic social injustice on young athletes.
On Twitter, the NBA will feature live conversations with Wizards guard John Wall, Los Angeles Lakers guard Danny Green and Memphis Grizzlies forward Justise Winslow. On NBA TV, Hawks head coach Lloyd Pierce will also take part in a discussion.
According to a league source, the NBA hopes its June 19 programming will begin efforts to bring conversations about race to the forefront.
The 30-team NBA was 74.8% black in 2019, according to the NBA Racial and Gender Report Card from the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport at the University of Central Florida.