Canadian professional football team lets go of “Eskimo” in its name

Sponsors for the Edmonton CFL team have threatened to cut ties unless the organization commits to changing its name. (John Woods/The Canadian Press)
Edmonton’s professional football team is changing its name.

“The Edmonton Eskimo Football Club board of directors has made the decision to discontinue the use of the word ‘Eskimo’ in the team’s name,” a news release said Tuesday.

At a news conference Tuesday, Board Chair Janice Agrios said the team’s most recent opinion research showed that views about the name are shifting quickly.

“People who defended the name only a year ago are less comfortable with it now. Institutions are being renamed around the world. The change to our name is part of a sweeping societal change.”Board Chair Janice Agrios

Agrios also spoke about the team’s identity.

”To those of us who spent our formative years bundling up to sit in the stands and cheer on our team in below-zero temperatures, the name Eskimos meant tough, resilient, never give up. It also meant community and respect. We identified with this name. In recent years, however, we’ve come to understand the concerns with the name.”

“We know that those who originally named the team did not intend to be disrespectful or derogatory — in fact, the very opposite. They were proud to associate themselves with such a resilient northern people. The alliteration of the two words, our northern location — the name felt like a natural fit.”

“However, while we might relate to Inuit values, that doesn’t mean we can continue to use this name.”

Name search process

The team will begin a “comprehensive engagement process” to find a new name.

Team president and CEO Chris Presson called the name change a monumental, historic occasion in the history of the team.

He believes fans will continue to support the club no matter the name.

“This is tough for long-time fans, no question, but here’s the thing: we’re all a team. Our team, and game day itself, are designed to unite people.”

“Our game is designed to bring people together for a half day so they can leave their worries and struggles behind. Now, more than ever, we all need a mental break. We need unity, not divisiveness.”Team president and CEO Chris Presson

The process will involve research and “input from season seat holders, casual ticket purchasers and partners,” the team said.

“We’re not very far down that path yet,” Presson said.

“I can’t give you a specific timeline or process, but the chance to choose a new name for the future of this team, a name that captures those Edmonton values, that’s a great opportunity. We don’t have a new name yet, but the list of possibilities is growing every day.”

The team said the green-and-gold team colours and the EE logo will be part of the discussions.

In the meantime, the club will use the names EE Football Team and Edmonton Football Team.

The team’s current name has been criticized as insensitive or even racist.

Sponsors of the team have threatened to cut ties unless the organization commits to changing its name.

Last week, the National Football League team in Washington announced it will retire its name and logo after pressure from sponsors.

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: Canadian Inuit leader reflects on report of CFL team changing name, CBC News

Finland: Eskimo-branded ice cream may get name change in Finland, Yle News

Sweden: Sami in Sweden start work on structure of Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Eye on the Arctic

United States: COVID-19 pandemic raises hard questions about health disparities, says Int’l Inuit org, Eye on the Arctic

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