New Balance will close all operations — including its owned retail stores — on Friday in observance of Juneteenth.
In a statement posted to its website, the sportswear behemoth said it recognizes “the significance of this milestone in the fabric of our history” and said the day marks “an important time to acknowledge and educate ourselves on the history, experiences, sacrifices and achievements of African Americans.”
“New Balance is grounded in our core values of integrity, mutual respect and total customer satisfaction. We have and always will prioritize humanity and we are committed to fostering a diverse, inclusive and equal society. We believe it is not enough to do well, we have to do good,” the statement reads.
Also known as Freedom Day, Juneteenth commemorates a specific date: June 19, 1865. On that date, Union soldiers arrived in Galvenston, Texas with news the Civil War had ended and enslaved persons were now free — more than two and a half years after Abraham Lincoln delivered the Emancipation Proclamation.
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Although Juneteenth is not a federal holiday, 47 states and Washington, D.C. recognize the day as either a state holiday or a day of observance. This year, the day has taken on increased symbolic significance for many amid a broader national conversation surrounding race and diversity in the wake of George Floyd’s death. (Floyd, an unarmed black man, was killed by a white Minneapolis police officer last month. The incident was caught on video and spurred national outcry.) The governors of both New York and Virginia announced Wednesday that they would make Juneteenth a paid day off for state employees this year, with each revealing plans to work with their state legislatures to codify the day as a permanent holiday going forward. What’s more, New Balance is one of several boldface retailers to make Juneteenth a corporate holiday beginning this year.
Fellow athletic giant Nike announced on June 11 that it would give employees a paid day each June 19 as part of a larger push to get its own “house in order” with regard to boosting racial equality. The Swoosh said that it would hone in on four key areas to improve internal race relations: representation, professional development, inclusion and belonging and education. Several other major players in the retail space, including JCPenney, Kenneth Cole Productions and Target, have also declared Juneteenth a company holiday.