- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 17, 2020

The Washington Redskins are giving employees the day off Friday to observe Juneteenth, the holiday commemorating the end of slavery in the United States.

Redskins coach Ron Rivera penned a letter to all team employees to explain the decision.

Washington joins a growing list of other NFL teams to recognize the day. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell announced last week that June 19 will be recognized as an official holiday, giving league employees the day off.

The Redskins‘ choice to observe Juneteenth also comes as the franchise has spent time implementing a series of race-related programs in response to George Floyd’s death.

The Redskins set up a town hall format for employees to share their experiences with race and also brainstorm ways to help their community.

In the letter, Rivera thanked everyone who participated in the town hall discussions. He said he “gained new perspective” on societal issues and encouraged them to keep making suggestions on how the Redskins can take a stand against racial injustice and police brutality.

“This monumental day is celebrated each year,” Rivera said of Juneteenth, “but given all that has transpired, there is no doubt that the impact of this day will be even more heartfelt this year.”

In addition to the Redskins, the following teams have committed to giving their employees Juneteenth off: the Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers, Cincinnati Bengals, Cleveland Browns, Dallas Cowboys, Detroit Lions, Denver Broncos, Houston Texans, Indianapolis Colts, Jacksonville Jaguars, Kansas City Chiefs, New York Giants, New York Jets, Pittsburgh Steelers, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Philadelphia Eagles and New Orleans Saints.

June 19 is recognized as the effective end of slavery because, despite the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, it wasn’t until June 19, 1865, that Union soldiers read the address to slaves in Texas, months after the end of the Civil War. Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam announced Tuesday that he plans to introduce legislation that will make Juneteenth a paid state holiday.

Rivera sent the memo to the entire organization Wednesday. He said later this week, the Redskins will send out “specific action items” that the team plans on discussing at its next town hall. The Redskins‘ town hall consists of five panel members that include executive Doug Williams, coaching intern (and former police officer) Jennifer King, director of player development Malcolm Blacken, team pastor Brett Fuller and team psychologist Dr. Monica Page.

Team owner Dan Snyder has committed $250,000 to the Redskins to launch any future programs and initiatives the team comes up with.

“We have taken the first step as teammates and colleagues and shared our frustrations and experiences,” Rivera wrote in the memo. “Now we must put our minds together and take the next step in creating programs to fight this battle right here in the DMV.”

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