This week, the NBA family will celebrate Juneteenth, a holiday commemorating emancipation of enslaved people in the United States, with a variety of league and team programming, conversations and partnerships that encourage employees, fans and all members of the NBA family to further educate themselves on the holiday while also reflecting on past and present racial injustices in our county. The league will observe the holiday on Friday, June 18 with paid time off for all U.S. employees.
As part of the celebration, all league and team employees have been invited to a virtual panel discussion on June 17, hosted by NBA employee resource team “Dream in Color.” The panel will feature the forces behind “A Most Beautiful Thing,” a documentary executive-produced by NBA legends Grant Hill and Dwyane Wade, Seattle Storm President Ginny Gilder and GRAMMY award-winning artist Common that chronicles the history of the first U.S. African-American public high school rowing team. Grant Hill, director Mary Mazzio and Arshay Cooper, a rower and the protagonist of the film, will engage in conversation moderated by NBA TV’s Stephanie Ready around Arshay’s story, the origins of the film, Black history, Juneteenth and more.
Also hosted by “Dream in Color” was the first-ever Dream in Color Café, a live virtual event on June 16 for NBA employees to highlight Black excellence in art and culture. The event included live performances by award-winning saxophonist Trey Daniels and “America’s Got Talent” winner Brandon Leake followed by a moderated discussion on Juneteenth, creative process and each guest’s most fulfilling moment in their career.
Additionally, this week NBA players were invited to prescreen the new History Channel documentary executive-produced by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Fight the Power: The Movements That Changed America, which will premiere on Juneteenth. The one-hour documentary chronicles the key movements that have made a major impact throughout history including the labor movement of the 1880s, women’s suffrage and civil rights, as well as LGBTQ+ and Black Lives Matter movements.
In the WNBA, players will wear warmup shirts honoring the league’s commitment to social justice and teams will play Lift Every Voice and Sing, also known as the “Black National Anthem,” in arenas in celebration of the liberation and perseverance of Black people. The NBA G League also launched an apparel collection designed by Brooklyn-based artist Julian Alexander, a portion of the proceeds will benefit Facing History and Ourselves, an organization that uses lessons of history to challenge teachers and their students to stand up to bigotry and hate.
Throughout the weekend, the NBA family will recognize Juneteenth across all social and digital platforms and highlight the ways NBA teams are celebrating Juneteenth celebrations in their respective communities, through events with the National Museum of African American History and Culture around the commemoration of Juneteenth, town halls and panel discussions, buy-Black initiatives, festivals and more. Some of the specific team activations include:
- On June 14, in observance of Juneteenth, Pacers staff participated in a tour of historic Indiana Avenue, located in downtown Indianapolis. From the late 1800s to early 1900s, the neighborhood was home to a thriving African American community – highlighted by entrepreneurship, entertainment and numerous cultural attractions. On June 14, the L.A. Clippers hosted a conversation for all staff in collaboration with the National Museum of African American History and Culture around the commemoration of Juneteenth. Focusing on the actions of the enslaved, it explored the complex strategies, battles and court challenges that ended slavery in the United States.
- On June 16, the Orlando Magic hosted a Walk With Us Town Hall, discussed the history and significance of Juneteenth and explored the African American presence in Orlando from 1865 to present, as well as highlighted Black-owned businesses.
- On June 18, New York Knicks legend John Wallace will support the 12th Annual Juneteenth NYC Festival at Herbert Von King Park in Brooklyn, where the Jr. Knicks will run a basketball skills academy to educate, empower and engage the community.
- On June 19, the Memphis Grizzlies will be participating in the 2nd Annual Juneteenth Shop Black Festival that celebrates Black businesses in the Memphis community and recognizes Juneteenth. Black-owned shopping and food businesses will be highlighted along with several musical artists performing during the festival.
- On June 19, the Oklahoma City Thunder Rolling Thunder Book Bus and Thunder entertainers will be at Juneteenth on the East, a family celebration of freedom and placemaking while highlighting the history of emancipation. The book bus will be on-site to provide books, sling bags, water bottles and t-shirt to all visitors.
- On June 19, the Orlando Magic will host the Unity Juneteenth Celebration that will feature a panel discussion on Black Excellence: A State of Mind with inspirational leaders from our community sharing their stories of success, perseverance and generational impact.
- On June 19, the Cleveland Cavaliers will sponsor the African-American Cultural Gardens Juneteenth Celebration, which includes a social justice essay contest for youth. Additionally, as part of a three-team alliance with the Cleveland professional sports teams, the Cavs are sponsoring the first Downtown Alliance Freedom Fest Celebration.
- On June 20, the Golden State Warriors are supporting community COVID-19 vaccination sites around the Bay Area with giveaways to help encourage vaccinations. This event is part of Juneteenth activations in the Bayview neighborhood of San Francisco. In addition to other community activations, the event will also have opportunities for attendees to get vaccinated.
Building on the league’s decades-long values of equality, respect and inclusion, the NBA is continuing its commitment to advance social justice and drive equality for marginalized communities through the NBA Foundation and National Basketball Social Justice Coalition. Prior to Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals on TNT, the NBA will also announce the inaugural winner of the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Social Justice Champion award, a new annual honor that will recognize a current NBA player for advancing Abdul-Jabbar’s mission to drive change and taking collective action in their community.