Nike Inc. told employees that Juneteenth, which takes place on June 19 and marks the day enslaved people discovered they were free in the U.S., will become a paid holiday.
Chief Executive Officer John Donahoe announced the change in an internal memo on Thursday while outlining the footwear company’s strategy to address conversations about race in the wake of protests and the nationwide reckoning of police brutality against black Americans. He said employees have reported “a disconnect” between Nike’s outward posture on race and their internal experiences in the company.
“When we say that Black Lives Matter, it applies to the world outside of Nike and, importantly, it applies to our black teammates within Nike,” Donahoe said in the memo, which was shared with Bloomberg News. “Simply put, we need to hold ourselves to a high standard given the heritage of our company and our brand.”
Nike follows Twitter Inc. in observing Juneteenth and shows how large U.S. corporations are increasingly responding to public outcry following the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer. Companies have pledged to stock more products from black-owned businesses and form task forces to address racial inequality.
The memo was previously reported by Footwear News.
Nike has also created a diversity taskforce, co-chaired by vice presidents Brandis Russell and Phil McCartney.
The company faced upheaval in its ranks in 2018, including the departure of the official in charge of overseeing diversity, after reports of misconduct and sexist behavior by male executives. At the time, then-CEO Mark Parker said the company “became aware of some “behavioral issues that are inconsistent with Nike’s values of inclusivity, respect and empowerment” and pledged to create a better working environment.