NEW YORK, June 19 ― The NBA for the first time today gave employees paid time off on “Juneteenth” to recognise the oldest US commemoration of emancipation from slavery.
The move came in the wake of the killing of George Floyd last month while in police custody and the global protests that followed against racism and police brutality.
Juneteenth is remembered on June 19 to recall to end of US slavery on the date in 1865, when American soldiers notified the last of those enslaved in Texas they were free following US President Abraham Lincoln’s 1863 Emancipation Proclamation.
The NBA said in a statement it wanted to provide employees “the opportunity to use the day to pause, further educate themselves and reflect on both the history and the current state of race in our country.”
Nearly every NBA and WNBA team will observe Juneteenth as an organisational holiday, with the Washington Wizards planning a visit to the Martin Luther King Jr Memorial in the US capital.
All league and team employees will be invited a special virtual screening of the new film John Lewis: Good Trouble about the life and legacy of Lewis, an 80-year-old US lawmaker who has spent more than 60 years as a social activist.
The Junior NBA in partnership with the National Basketball Coaches Association, will host a coaches forum with youth basketball coaches and former Memphis Grizzlies and New York Knicks coach David Fizdale that will focus on race, equality and the impact of systemic social injustice on young athletes. Those attending will receive resources designed to promote cultures of inclusion and address race issues in a team setting.
The league also planned online activities to educate fans on Juneteenth, including conversations with Washington guard John Wall and Los Angeles Lakers guard Danny Green and an NBA TV appearance by Atlanta Hawks coach Lloyd Pierce.
The league, which had nearly 75 per cent of roster spots filled by black players last year, hopes to normalise conversation regarding race and combat harmful stereotypes about the black community.
The NBA season was shut down in March due to the coronavirus pandemic but the league has plans for 22 teams to resume the campaign next month in Orlando, Florida. ― AFP