Nike CEO: Juneteenth Will Be Paid Company Holiday + More Ways He’s Getting the ‘House in Order’

In an internal memo sent to Nike Inc. staffers today, and obtained by FN, CEO John Donahoe expanded on the brand’s plans to get its own “house in order” when it comes to boosting racial equality. Among his big moves is a decision to make Juneteenth a company holiday.

Informed by several weeks of conversations with employees in the wake of national unrest stemming from the death of George Floyd, Donahoe — who has been at Nike’s helm for about 6 months — said the company will now focus on four key areas to improve race relations internally: representation, professional development, inclusion and belonging and education.

To help lead the company in advancing these goals, Donahoe has tapped Brandis Russell, VP of global footwear for Converse, and Phil McCartney, VP/GM of global footwear for Nike, to co-chair a D&I Acceleration Taskforce.

Russell and McCartney will bring together a “small cross-functional team” supported by Nike’s D&I team to develop a plan and set of comprehensive recommendations. What’s more, to extend its recognition of Black history, Donahoe said Nike will recognize Juneteenth (June 19), a day commemorating the end of slavery in the U.S., as an annual paid holiday in the U.S.

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In addition, from June 19 to July 4, the company will offer programming and learning opportunities to all employees on topics specific to racial inequality.

“As I have listened deeply during my first six months and over the past few weeks, what I have learned is that many have felt a disconnect between our external brand and your internal experience,” the Swoosh’s CEO wrote to employees. “You have told me that we have not consistently supported, recognized and celebrated our own Black teammates in a manner they deserve. This needs to change.”

He continued, “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.”

It’s been a challenging few weeks across the country and globally as the killing of Floyd, an unarmed black man, at the hands of a white Minneapolis police officer, sparked massive outcry over racial disparities in the United States. Those issues were only stoked by months of health and socioeconomic challenges borne of the coronavirus pandemic, which, too, laid bare issues of racial inequality in the U.S.

For its part, Nike in partnership with Michael Jordan — and inclusive of all three of its owned-brands, Nike, Converse and Jordan — this month committed to $140 million in donations toward the fight for racial equality. It also put out a video across social media on May 29 calling for an end to racial injustice, reworking it’s iconic slogan as “For once, just don’t do it.” The video was viewed millions of times on social media, and garnered a historic retweet from longtime rival Adidas as well as running brand Brooks.

Still, many brands that have rushed to join the fray of social media conversation around race issues have drawn the ire of some who have called on companies to do more than espouse values but to make significant investments in black communities as well as in their black staffers.

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