The Broncos are the latest team to pay proper tribute to Juneteenth.
It the latest sign that the NFL is finally coming around to engaging on issues regarding racism and oppression in America in good faith, the league announced on Friday that its central offices will be closed for a holiday on June 19 to mark Juneteenth, the day General Gordon Granger formally announced the government’s order that slavery was no more in the state of Texas, a notorious straggler following the Emancipation Proclamation.
In the subsequent days, individual franchises have joined with the NFL to declare Juneteenth as a paid holiday. The Denver Broncos are the latest, and all but confirmed that this long-overdue show of solidarity is the new normal in professional football.
Broncos’ decision to mark Juneteenth as a paid holiday going forward is part of a growing trend
Team president and CEO Joe Ellis said Monday that the decision was the result of a series of town hall-style discussions with Broncos employees.
The ongoing national protests against racism and police brutality that disproportionately targets Black people are bigger than the Broncos, and they’re bigger than the NFL. But considering how far this league lagged behind in terms of accepting these ills as serious societal issues, this growing wave of solidarity needs to mark the beginning of a long road bent on soul-searching and critical self-reflection.
(A team or two would do well to spend part of this holiday on a Zoom call with, say, Colin Kaepernick or Malcolm Jenkins, but I’m only spitballing here.)
As with anything that comes out of the mouth of Roger Goodell, it’s up to the NFL’s major voices, as well as the fans at large, to hold teams like the Broncos accountable so that this progress amounts to far more than lip service. At the very least, however, seeing the league begin to get real about the deep racist rot America has yet to reckon with in full.