ATLANTA – The Atlanta Hawks have announced that for the first time in the history of the franchise it has designated Juneteenth as a permanent paid company holiday for all its employees. The decision comes as many organizations are identifying specific ways to thoughtfully recognize and honor the full experience of African Americans in the shadow of the country’s on-going racial tensions.
According to juneteenth.com, this holiday is the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States. Dating back to 1865, it was on June 19 that the Union soldiers arrived in Galveston, Texas with news that the war had ended and that the enslaved were now free. This was more than two years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation ended slavery on January 1, 1863.
“I am proud of the decision our organization has made to recognize Juneteenth as a company holiday this year and going forward,” said Camye Mackey, Chief People, Diversity and Inclusion Officer for the Atlanta Hawks & State Farm Arena. “This is one of many steps we’ll take to support the positive change we need to see in society.”
The Hawks organization is encouraging its employees and partners to support the Black community by providing resources to assist in patronizing black businesses, learning more about the culture, participating in local Juneteenth celebrations, and engaging in service opportunities that help to foster equality for all.
The Atlanta Hawks have been at the forefront of the NBA in addressing racial disparities, as the first team in the league to hire a Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer in 2014, producing an annual Diversity and Inclusion symposium, Model of Shaping Atlanta through Inclusive Conversation (MOSAIC), and organizing the first-ever UNITY DAY Game in 2016. In 2019, the team was honored with the NBA Inclusion Leadership Award, recognized as the best in diversity innovation and impact in the league.
In response to recent racial unrest, Hawks Principal Owner Tony Ressler stated in part last week, “Black lives matter. There is no in-between. We, as an organization and part of the Atlanta community, are determined to be a part of the solution.”