Redskins join NFL teams making Juneteenth paid company holiday

The Washington Redskins became the latest NFL team to recognize Juneteenth by giving their employees the day off Friday, joining a growing list that wants to honor the effective ending of slavery in the United States.

Redskins coach Ron Rivera sent a memo to the entire organization Wednesday explaining that all employees -- from ticket-takers to the front office -- would get a paid holiday, whether they had been working in the building or remotely.

Called Juneteenth, June 19 is observed 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.

The NFL announced on June 12 that it would make it a company holiday.

A number of other teams have also said they would give all of their employees the day off Friday. The list includes the Atlanta Falcons, Baltimore Ravens, Buffalo Bills, Carolina Panthers, Chicago Bears, Cincinnati Bengals, Cleveland Browns, Dallas Cowboys, Denver Broncos, Detroit Lions, Indianapolis Colts, Jacksonville Jaguars, Kansas City Chiefs, Las Vegas Raiders, Los Angeles Chargers, New York Giants, New York Jets, New Orleans Saints, Philadelphia Eagles, Pittsburgh Steelers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Other teams, such as the Tennessee Titans, gave all of their employees the next couple of weeks off.

Bills owners Terry and Kim Pegula also made Juneteenth a company-wide paid holiday for all organizations under the Pegula Sports and Entertainment umbrella, including the Buffalo Sabres and the Rochester Americans.

Kim Pegula told employees via email they were encouraged not only to take Friday off, but also to take the time to reflect on what Juneteenth means and learn about its historical significance. Included in the email were links to pieces of reading and other learning tools regarding Juneteenth.

Giants owners John Mara and Steve Tisch have been part of the team's meetings about social injustice the past few weeks. They mostly focused on listening.

"I think the biggest thing we try to emphasize as coaches and ownership was more the listening," Giants coach Joe Judge said. "We weren't in there to run the conversation."

The Los Angeles Rams are not recognizing Juneteenth as an official holiday, as staff members would not have worked Friday because it was previously scheduled as a day off.

However, a Rams spokesperson said COO Kevin Demoff has encouraged staff to support black businesses in Inglewood and across Los Angeles. Any money spent on food and beverages at these businesses will be fully reimbursed by the team. The Rams staff has also been encouraged to acquire books by black authors or books that help further discussions of how to be better advocates for one another, the black community and the fight against injustice. Those purchases will be reimbursed as well, the team said.

Rivera had told a team spokesman of his plans Sunday. However, Rivera wanted to wait to announce anything until after a series of internal town hall meetings were held Monday.

Washington had five such individual meetings -- lasting between one to two hours -- led by senior vice president of player development Doug Williams; full-year coaching intern Jennifer King, a former police officer; Pastor Brett Fuller; director of player development Malcolm Blacken; and team psychologist Dr. Monica Page.

Rivera, the NFL's lone minority head-coaching hire this past offseason, said in the memo of the town hall meetings that he "learned a great deal after hearing all of your stories, experiences and suggestions about how our organization can make a difference in helping to make our community safer for people of color."

Rivera said of Juneteenth that, "Given all that has transpired, there is no doubt that the impact of this day will be even more heartfelt this year."

Rivera said in the memo that he wanted to hear from employees any suggestions on how the organization can take action against the "fight for social injustice and police brutality."

He said he wanted employees to take time Friday to reflect on discussions of the past week and do some research on various topics related to social justice matters. They will hold future town hall sessions to decide on any actions they want to see the organization take place.

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

The DMV stands for the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia.

The organization also has started the Washington Redskins Black Engagement Network, focusing on mentoring, networking and community outreach. Rivera said Redskins owner Dan Snyder donated $250,000 to help start these programs.

In a Zoom interview last week, Rivera said he was proud of quarterback Dwayne Haskins, who participated in a rally on June 6, and rookie defensive end Chase Young, who was part of a video featuring various players speaking on the need for social justice.

"These past two weeks have been a mix of emotions for myself," Rivera said last week. "I'm saddened by how hurt the black community is by what has transpired. I'm also proud of everyone who's on the right side of the fight against social injustice. I am here to help any way I can in making a difference. Black lives do matter. We cannot be afraid to say it, so I'll say it again: Black lives do matter.

"Because of how long the peaceful protests have gone on, real change is within our grasp."

ESPN's Marcel Jacques-Louis, Jordan Raanan and Lindsey Thiry contributed to this report.