ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — In a series of Town Halls with employees, Broncos President & CEO Joe Ellis announced Juneteenth will be a permanent, paid holiday for the organization starting this year as a day of reflection, learning and service.
Both UCHealth Training Center and Empower Field at Mile High will be closed Friday, June 19, in recognition of Juneteenth.
June 19, 1865 — or Juneteenth — is celebrated as the United States' second independence day and marks the effective end of slavery in the United States. While President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, slavery persisted in Confederate states over the next several years. On June 19, 1865, Union soldiers informed enslaved African-Americans in Texas that they were freed by executive decree.
Though many did not gain their freedom immediately, Juneteenth was when more than 250,000 enslaved people in Texas learned they would gain their freedom. Later in 1865, the 13th amendment was ratified and officially abolished slavery in the United States. It was still another year before freed slaves and other Black Americans granted citizenship and equal protection under the law through the Civil Rights Act of 1866.
The Broncos will join the NFL's league offices in their recognition of Juneteenth. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell announced the league's decision to close its offices on Friday, June 12, as the league aims to take steps to combat systemic racism and support Black Americans.
"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."
In Denver, Ellis echoed Goodell's sentiments to members of the Broncos' organization as he urged team employees to use the company holiday to reflect. Going forward, the Broncos will plan social justice community service opportunities for employees on that day.
Ellis met with members of the Broncos' roster on June 2 to express the team's stand against systemic racism, police brutality and other social injustices. Ellis urged the team's players to use their platforms to enact change, and he pledged the team would support them in their efforts.
Ellis emphasized in his meetings with team employees on Monday that the team was committed to combatting these high-level issues long after any media attention may fade.