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Nike CEO marks Juneteenth as an annual paid company holiday

Nike will make Juneteenth a company-wide annual paid holiday, CEO John Donahoe said in an internal memo Thursday.

"As many of you may know, next Friday, June 19, is Juneteenth, a day commemorating the end of slavery in the U.S. Starting this year and going forward, Nike will recognize Juneteenth as an annual paid holiday in the U.S," he wrote in the company-wide memo, obtained by Newsweek.

Donahoe cited the importance of black athletes to the athletic company's success in the memo.

"For more than 40 years, our brand has celebrated incredible Black athletes and inspired millions of people all over the world by amplifying their excellence," he added. "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. Simply put, we need to hold ourselves to a high standard given the heritage of our company and our brand."

Donahoe, who became CEO in January, said the company will also launch a diversity education initiative for "all employees on topics specific to racial inequality" to take place between the holiday and the Fourth of July.

The announcement came the day after Twitter and Square CEO Jack Dorsey announced both companies would also give all employees Juneteenth as an annual holiday, adding "Countries and regions around the world have their own days to celebrate emancipation, and we will do the work to make those dates company holidays everywhere we are present."

The holiday, celebrated on June 19, has commemorated the emancipation of former slaves since 1866, and marks the day in 1865 when Union Gen. Gordon Granger read the Emancipation Proclamation to former slaves in Texas, the last state where emancipation was announced after President Lincoln issued the proclamation in 1863.

It is recognized as a state holiday or observation in 47 states.

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