NFL to recognize Juneteenth as company holiday

Stephen A. urges for greater diversity in the NFL (2:17)

Stephen A. Smith suggests that diversity should be prioritized in the NFL amid discussions of racial justice. (2:17)

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell announced Friday that the league will recognize June 19 as a company holiday, with NFL offices closed on that day.

Called Juneteenth, June 19 is celebrated as the effective end of slavery in the United States. Although the Emancipation Proclamation went into effect Jan. 1, 1863, it wasn't until June 19, 1865, after the April 1865 conclusion of the Civil War, when the last of the newly freed slaves were read President Abraham Lincoln's decree in Texas.

"This year, as we work together as a family and in our communities to combat the racial injustices that remain deeply rooted into the fabric of our society, the NFL will observe Juneteenth on Friday, June 19th as a recognized holiday and our league offices will be closed," Goodell said in a statement. "It is a day to reflect on our past, but more importantly, consider how each one of us can continue to show up and band together to work toward a better future."

The recognition of Juneteenth comes a day after the NFL announced it is increasing its financial commitment to social justice causes to $250 million over 10 years to "combat systemic racism and support the battle against the ongoing and historic injustices faced by African Americans."

"The power of this historical feat in our country's blemished history is felt each year, but there is no question that the magnitude of this event weighs even more heavily today in the current climate," Goodell said in his statement Friday. "Juneteenth not only marks the end of slavery in the United States, but it also symbolizes freedom -- a freedom that was delayed, and brutally resisted; and though decades of progress followed, a freedom for which we must continue to fight."

"I think the NFL has taken some, some great steps," Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald said later Friday. "I'm happy that we're trending in the right direction on this issue and hopefully we can continue to gain traction by doing things like recognizing Juneteenth Day and other things that are important not only to African Americans but everybody that loves and watches the game."

ESPN's Josh Weinfuss contributed to this report.