A social media post by the Edmonton Eskimos referencing racism drew criticism over the weekend given the ongoing controversy over the team’s name, which is widely considered a racial slur.
Canadian Football League teams joined the wave of corporate voices denouncing racism on social media in solidarity with the widespread protests happening across North America following the death of George Floyd. He died handcuffed and pinned down by members of the Minneapolis police last Monday.
On Sunday, the Edmonton Eskimos posted a statement on social media, stating, “We seek to understand what it must feel like to live in fear going birding, jogging or even relaxing in the comfort of your home. To feel unvalued. To feel used.”
“We stand with those who are outraged, who are hurt and who hope for a better tomorrow.”
The post triggered criticism and renewed calls for the team to change its name, which is widely considered a racial slur to describe Inuit.
Nunavut NDP MP Mumilaaq Qaqqaq responded to the Tweet on Monday morning, writing if the football club was really seeking to understand, it could “start by changing your team name.”
“Stop feeding into stereotypes and offensive names.”
— Edmonton Eskimos (@EdmontonEsks) May 31, 2020
Inuk artist Tanya Tagaq was more blunt in her Twitter response: “CHANGE YOUR NAME!”
Others responding online described the statement as “ironic” and “hypocritical.”
if only there was some way this team could do something about racism. https://t.co/49gBwWyrxQ
— vicky mochama (@vmochama) May 31, 2020
Ask the Inuit how it feels. Change your damn name. pic.twitter.com/0OqYFmDtg5
— Jay Fitzsimmons (@JayFitzsy) June 1, 2020
Professional sports teams like the Chicago Blackhawks have been triggering similar responses in making public statements about current events.
Controversy over the Edmonton team’s name has been an ongoing issue — one the team is well aware of. Concerns were raised about the name by Natan Obed, president of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, Canada’s national Inuit organization, in 2015 when the team was playing in the Grey Cup.
Club sticks with name following consultations
The football club consulted people in N.W.T., Nunavut, Edmonton and Ottawa and has surveyed its season ticket holders about the name.
In an emailed statement on Monday, the club said “The Edmonton Eskimos have conducted an extensive engagement process with Canada’s Inuit community regarding our team name. We announced the findings of that research several months ago. As previously announced we will continue to engage on this matter going forward.”
“As a team with a long history of community building we stand opposed to violence and are saddened by the events occurring across the United States.”
In February, the club said it had found “a range of views regarding the club’s name but no consensus emerged to support a name change.”
Because of the lack of consensus, the club wrote that it “decided to retain its name” and committed to having more engagement with people in northern Canada.
When contacted by CBC News, Tagaq said she didn’t want to rehash the conversation about the team name at this time. Instead she said she wants to keep the focus on Black Lives Matter.
Related stories from around the North:
Finland: Sámi reconciliation process gains final approval in Finland, Yle News
Sweden: Film exploring racism against Sami wins big at Swedish film awards, Radio Sweden
United States: New York Times article on Inuit draws backlash for reliance on stereotypes, CBC News