The Jacksonville Jaguars will close their offices for a day of observation in honor of Juneteenth.
Employees have been encouraged to take this day to learn about Juneteenth and race relations, to visit places in Jacksonville that are important to the heritage of the local Black community, and to support Black-owned businesses.
All employees were provided resources on the history of Juneteenth, a list of local experiences in Jacksonville that bring the heritage of the Black community in the city to life and a list of local Black-owned businesses that they can patronize.
Taking place on June 19th, Juneteenth is the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States, observing and remembering the anniversary of Union Major-General Gordon Granger’s reading of the Emancipation Proclamation to the people of Texas on June 19, 1865.
Though, Abraham Lincoln officially issued the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, many of the people who were enslaved were not free in the state of Texas at the time.
While Juneteenth is not yet an officially recognized holiday in the United States, there has been resurgence via online petitions to recognize it as such. Thus far, 47 states and the District of Columbia currently recognize Juneteenth as either a state or ceremonial holiday.
The Jaguars, NFL league office and several other NFL teams will officially observe the holiday, marking the first time in NFL history that this has happened.
On June 5th, the Jaguars became the first NFL franchise in history to hold their very own peaceful walk in protest of the police brutality and that social injustices that have torn through the United States, particularly for people of color, for far too long.
The organization loudly and proudly announced their support for the Black Lives Matter movement. Several players such as wide receivers Chris Conley and DJ Chark Jr., along with head coach Doug Marrone and running backs coach Terry Robiskie were at the forefront of the team’s march.
Following the team’s peaceful protest march, Marrone let it be known that this was just the start of a movement and change that has been a long time coming.
“We’ve got to maintain our focus and stay on course. There’s a lot that we are working on and we feel that we can make a difference,” Marrone said following the March.
“Those will be coming out in our conversations with our players first, the coaches, obviously with ownership and the rest of our organization. I can’t tell you what this means to me - again, I say it again, if you are a white person I challenge you: please, if you think you understand, take a step back. Listen. Learn. Let’s not make the same mistakes we’ve made. We need to stand together, white and black. To make this a movement, work — this is only the beginning.”
Recently, in one of the largest protests in Jacksonville history, Jaguars running back Leonard Fournette led his very own peaceful protest downtown. In a moving, and inspirational show of unity, it was clear Fournette, and the many who joined him simply wanted one thing: change.
"We're going to continue praying, coming together, doing what we have to do to have a better generation for our kids."@_Fournette organized a march in support of the Black community through downtown with @lennycurry, @JSOPIO, @lilduval, teammates and city by his side. pic.twitter.com/KX4s63Wojk— #DUUUVAL (@Jaguars) June 9, 2020
“Black lives do matter, I want y’all to understand that. They do matter,” said Fournette.
“Duval is my second home and the biggest thing I want to give out to y’all - it’s not about the flag at all. I want y’all to understand that. It’s about us wanting equal rights, understanding our place as young Black men, because it’s hard being black out there right now.
“This is a big step for all of us, you know, I’m happy to see blacks and whites out here together doing this. This is a wonderful thing. Want to tell y’all, man, no matter what, I love all of y’all. This is bigger than me, this is bigger than football. So we going to continue praying, coming together, doing what we have to do to have a better generation for our kids - the next generation. Black lives matter, let’s keep fighting.”
Much has been made regarding the flag and the peaceful protests that have swept the nation, however, what Fournette, and millions of others simply want is equality.
This is yet another step to achieving that, an actionable change in philosophy which will hopefully inspire many more to learn and grow through their experiences.