CFL’s Edmonton Eskimos will search for new name

CFL’s Edmonton Eskimos will search for new name

CFL’s Edmonton Eskimos will search for new name

The Edmonton Eskimos are no longer in the CFL.

The franchise announced Tuesday it’s discontinuing the Eskimos name. It follows a similar decision by the NFL’s Washington team as pressure mounts on teams to eliminate racist or stereotypical names.

The Edmonton club will begin “a comprehensive engagement process” on a new name. Until then, the franchise will be called EE Football Team and Edmonton Football Team.

“But 2020 is already a year of unprecedented upheaval,” team board chair Janice Agrios said during a videoconference. “Our most recent opinion research shows plainly that views 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.

“Thank-you to those members of the Inuit community who spent time sharing their views with us the past three years. To those Inuit who told us they loved having a football team called the Eskimos, we hope we can continue to be your team. To those who were offended by the name, we have heard you and recognize your concerns.”

Edmonton president Chris Presson added the club hopes it can keep its double-E logo and green and gold colours.

“I can tell you that we sure love our green and gold and double E,” he said. “It’s early days but we hope to keep that iconic logo.”

The decision comes following a review by the franchise after it twice opted to maintain its team name. The Eskimos moniker has been tied to sports teams in Edmonton since the 19th century but critics say the name is derogatory and a colonial-era term for Inuit.

In February, the franchise announced it was keeping the name after a year-long research that involved Inuit leaders and community members across Canada. The club said it received “no consensus” during that review.

On July 8, the club promised to speed up another review of its name and provide an update by month’s end. In that statement, the Edmonton franchise noted “a lot has happened” since it made the decision in February.

One of the team’s sponsors, national car-and-home insurance provider Belairdirect, had announced a day earlier that it was rethinking its relationship with the team because of the name. Others added they’d would welcome a review of the name.

“No one event sparked this decision,” Agrios said. “We’ve had open conversations with partners, community and fans about this issue for several years now.

“We’re proud of the engagement that we’ve done. Our recent engagement has clearly indicated that attitudes toward the team name have been shifting and we made the decision based on that.”

All this happened as NFL’s Washington team said it would undergo a thorough review of its name. A similar announcement was made by Major League Baseball’s Cleveland Indians.

It is unclear when Edmonton will play its first game with a new name. The CFL in June postponed the start of its 2020 season because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Presson said the franchise definitely won’t have a new name in time for the start of a 2020 season, which won’t begin until September, at the earliest. It also is possible there will not be a 2020 season.

There have been repeated calls in the past for the Edmonton team to change its name. Canada’s national Inuit organization in 2015 said it was time for a change.

“It isn’t right for any team to be named after an ethnic group,” said Natan Obed, president of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, which represents Canada’s 60,000 Inuit. Obed has said that Inuit people are not mascots.

Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson, citing Obed’s statement, said in 2017 the team should take steps toward a name change.

Although American Inuit continue to use the word Eskimo, Canada’s northern people left that name behind about the same time they began negotiating their land claim in the 1970s.

Many historians believe the origin of Eskimo comes from an Algonquin term meaning “eaters of raw meat.” Others believe it comes from another Aboriginal term that refers to people wearing snowshoes.

The people themselves have used the word Inuit for centuries. It means “the people” in Inuktut.

Founded in 1949, the Edmonton team has won the Grey Cup 14 times, second only to the Toronto Argonauts at 17. The community-owned club’s impressive history on the field includes a record five consecutive Grey Cups from 1978 to 1982.

“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,” Agrios said. “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. Today culminates a long journey. Some people have suggested our research and engagement efforts were just optics trying to justify keeping the name. Nothing could be further from the truth.”

Edmonton set a North American pro sports record by qualifying for the playoffs in 34 straight seasons from 1972 to 2005.

The team applied for the trademark “Edmonton Empire” in 2018 for use on souvenir items.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 21, 2020

Dan Ralph, The Canadian Press

CFL

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

File photo
Alberta’s central zone has 670 active cases

301 new cases identified Sunday

Alberta has 1,910 active cases of COVID-19 as of Wednesday. Red Deer is reporting five active cases, with 108 recovered. (File photo)
Red Deer reports 25th COVID-19 death

415 new cases identified provincially Saturday

Alberta Health reported two new COVID-19 deaths in Red Deer Friday. (Image courtesy CDC)
Two more deaths linked to Olymel outbreak in Red Deer

Province reported 356 additional COVID-19 cases Friday

Black Press file photo
Wetaskiwin RCMP execute search warrant; illegal drugs seized

Two Wetaskiwin residents have been charged with possession and trafficking of Methamphetamine.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney speaks during a news conference in Edmonton on Feb. 24, 2020. It’s budget day in the province, and Kenney’s United Conservative government is promising more help in the fight against COVID, but more red ink on the bottom line. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta’s budget promises more help for COVID-19 with a hard deficit

Annual spending on debt interest is closing in on $3 billion

People line up outside a vaccine clinic as seniors wait to get the COVID-19 vaccine in Edmonton Alta, on Friday February 26, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta Health Services head sorry for glitches in vaccine booking system for seniors

AHS president said technical issues have been fixed and a virtual waiting room is in place

Vandalism is shown on Alberta NDP MLA Janis Irwin’s constituency office in Edmonton in this handout photo on Saturday, February 27, 2021. Alberta Premier Jason Kenney quickly condemned vandalism at an Opposition legislature member Janis Irwin’s Edmonton office after the MLA posted pictures showing her front window spray-painted with the words “Antifa Liar.” THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Janis Irwin *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Alberta Premier slams vandalism after slur painted on MLA’s office window

Edmonton MLA Janis Irwin posted pictures showing the front window spray-painted with the words ‘Antifa Liar’

A helicopter flies past a mountain near McBride, B.C., on Saturday January 30, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Avalanche warning for backcountry users in North and South Rockies

Avalanche Canada is urging backcountry users to always check their regional avalanche forecasts

Supporters pray outside court in Stony Plain, Alta., on Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021, as a trial date was set for Pastor James Coates of GraceLife Church. He is charged with holding Sunday services in violation of Alberta’s COVID-19 rules and with breaking conditions of his bail release. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Trial date for jailed Alberta pastor charged with breaking COVID-19 health orders

The court says it will reconvene with lawyers on March 5 for a case management plan by teleconference

A pharmacist prepares a COVID-19 vaccine at Village Green Retirement Campus in Federal Way on Jan. 26. (Olivia Sullivan/Sound Publishing)
Canada approves use of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine

The country joins more than a dozen others in giving the shot the green light

Sylvan Lake's Winter Village lured many visitors to the town this winter. The town has launched a new contest to attract a new business.
(Black Press file photo)
Sylvan Lake offering rent-free storefront space to lure new businesses

Winning business proposal will get a storefront space rent-free for a year

NDP leader Jagmeet Singh holds a press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
NDP will not trigger election as long as pandemic continues: Singh

‘“We will vote to keep the government going’

Most Read