Pressure mounts for Edmonton football club to act

“We will need to see concrete action in the near future including a name change,” says team sponsor

“The team name … was originally chosen more than 100 years ago out of acknowledgement, perseverance, and hardiness of Inuit culture,” the CFL’s Edmonton Eskimos said this week. (File photo)

By Sarah Rogers

As the debate about the Canadian Football League’s Edmonton team grows louder, the franchise now says it’s accelerating its latest review process.

Earlier this year, the Edmonton Eskimos football club announced it had no plans to change its name following a year-long “engagement program” in four different Inuit communities.

But public criticism over sports teams’ use of Indigenous names and emblems has resurfaced in recent months, prompting the team to revisit its decision.

And earlier this week, one of the team’s major sponsors, Belairdirect, threatened to pull its support if the football team didn’t reconsider its name.

“In order for us to move forward and continue on with our partnership with the Edmonton Eskimos, we will need to see concrete action in the near future including a name change,” the insurance company said in a July 7 statement.

The CFL team said earlier this week it planned to “ramp up” consultation with Inuit communities in the weeks to come, but the organization hasn’t said who it plans to consult and in which regions.

“We acknowledge and appreciate the feedback and input regarding our name,” the team said in a July 8 statement.

“We recognize that a lot has occurred since this information was gathered, and as a result, we are accelerating our ongoing process of review.”

The football club’s last consultation took it to Iqaluit, Inuvik, Ottawa and Yellowknife.

The football club declined Nunatsiaq News’ interview request. The team said it would provide an update on its latest round of consultations by the end of the month.

In its original engagement process, the team said it found no consensus among Inuit about the use of the term Eskimo, highlighting the stark divide among Inuit across the country.

In a statement released by former National Hockey League player and Nunavummiut Jordin Tootoo on July 8, he described an older Inuit generation’s attachment to the term Eskimo, which is not the case for many younger Inuit today.

“I understand there are names of sports teams that bring back feelings of oppression for people and I can see why those names should be changed,” Tootoo said. “Does the term Eskimo for the Edmonton franchise bring back feelings of oppression for Inuk people? For me, it does not.

“That is not a reason to keep the name,” he added. “There could be others for whom it does create those feelings.”

Tootoo encouraged the franchise to consider why the team originally chose the name Eskimo, and to continue consulting different Inuit groups.

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(23) Comments:

  1. Posted by Nunavut Volunteer on

    I agree with Jordon Tootoo.
    If Natan was so upset with the name, why doesn’t he and others change their names into Inuktitut names. Susan, John, Paul, Andrew are demeaning to the original Inuit names.

    • Posted by “Has Been Hunter” on

      How lame to attack the messengers and give them deragatory names because you do not share their views. Modernaization came in waves and many have Anglicized first names and does not make them less Inuit. Support them to represent us as a distinct peoples of the world. The franchise name was not to respect the peoples.
      Let them change or if they won’t, let us collectively push that they wear Inuksiutinnguat uniforms (silapaannguat, atiginnguat etc.) representing the name they carry (Unfortunately many of us Inuit do not associate ourselves as eskimoes).

    • Posted by “Has Been Hunter” on

      The world over, Anglicized names are now common, and that doesn’t mean we are less indigenous. But the origin of how they came to have their team name is the crux of the issue. If their name is actually in memory of noble, brave Inuit of the past who fed primarily on raw meat, let them wear uniforms depicting Inuit of the past in faux furs. Unfortunately many of us do not use the word eskimo to depict ourselves.

  2. Posted by Are we any different? on

    We get so caught up on following other things that we forget about ourselves. We say qablunaaq (white man) qingniqtualuk (black man) we we (French) unaliq (first Nations) to us that may not seem like bad words but to others they are bad. So please stop with this name crap if we ourselves won’t do the same.

  3. Posted by Consistency on

    I am surprised by the teams not wanting to change their names.
    1) why keep a controversial name? how does it help them make money… and that is what they are about. The owners dont necessarily care what their team is called they just wanted to own a team.
    2) They have a socially acceptable reason to change there name and possible logo therefore make new Jerseys, shirts, bags, cups, all sorts of things to be sold. and EVERYONE that cheers for the team will by the new products… they make more money.

    • Posted by Pickled Herrring on

      In my opinion your premise that resistance to changing the name can be reduced to economic interests is inaccurate, if not simplistic. Of course, money matters in business, but not all human behavior can be neatly explained by what will make or lose the most money; in this case those numbers are probably marginal anyway.

      The club has had its name since 1897, so it seems much more likely it is rooted in tradition.

    • Posted by Kuujjamiuk on

      Get it over with , that way , we ll find some new insignificant thing to whine about

  4. Posted by Old trapper on

    KEEP THE NAME look at the other names using eskimo cooler , eskimo iceauger ,eskimo pie something keep it 👍

  5. Posted by Mr. Practical on

    The Edmonton Estuaries. “Go Esties”. Jerseys with a river or stream on it.

    • Posted by tina on

      it should be edmonton inuit if they still wants to be called eskimos

    • Posted by French canadian who love to swear on

      I will love a team called : Les Esties!

  6. Posted by Richard B on

    I love the Eskimo name for our football team. It has a long and Rich history in the city and has been used by many other teams in the past. It represents the indigenous history of this area and areas north and is not derogatory in any way to the people that love Edmonton and who are inclusive to all cultures.. When you name a team you name it after something that involves pride and strength and a proud cultural history. It is also representative of the region we come from. We often refer to Edmonton as a northern city!
    The Edmonton Eskimos have done consultations for a year-and-a-half extensively. The results are in line with what Jordan Tootoo said. There’s going to be a lot of a different opinions on it. I personally believe the debate will always be divided. Any word in the English language, bad people can hijack and make it into something bad. But when I say Edmonton Eskimos to me it represents something very good. I am a white man married to an indigenous woman. And I admire all people who live in the North! In such a harsh environment!
    Keep the name!
    And while you are considering this, read the statement put out by the Chicago Blackhawks as to the proud origins of that name. And also a little history on the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. The idea for the name bombers actually came from a nickname of a boxer called the brown bomber who happened to be Joe Louis! From Richard

  7. Posted by WRONG PEOPLE . on

    Why is this an issue with the Inuit people ?
    It should be an issue between Edmonton Eskimos and the
    Northern Cree people, it is there language.
    What is the actual Inuktitut word for ” Eaters of raw meat ” ?
    Our leaders should focus their attention on more serious
    issues, if they can.
    I really hope Jordan Tootoo goes into Nunavut politics some
    day, he has his act together & will get things done. A good
    M. P. as well

  8. Posted by PROUD ESKIMO on

    We Inuit are PROUD of the name Eskimo.
    Why does a CFL Sponsor try to force the team to change their name when they never even asked us if we are offended by it.

    • Posted by UNGAVA on

      Its called political correctness

  9. Posted by No Eskimo on

    Change team name to this:

    Here’s something for debate. Why not ask Cree what Eskimo means. It’s their language and term. Get CLEY and Language Commissioner’s Office to confirm Eskimo is not a Inuit word
    For starters Eskimo is NOT an Inuit word.

    Inummariit/Real Inuit are not and never were Eskimo’s. “Stupid is, stupid does” for those misinformed and naive to be proud to be Eskimo are laughingstock. Simple. So very simple and misinformed it is sad. Embarrassing.

  10. Posted by Toonik’s Grandfather on

    Controversial? Not from north of 60…..issue was mainly created by media and few people with shallow roots in their own culture. History is history.

  11. Posted by Paradigm Shift on

    Now that the Washington Redskins have finally given in to pressure and have announced they intent to change their name, which is a good thing, I expect Edmonton will have no choice but to change their name also.
    While I do not have a stake in the name either way, I have noticed a lot of support for the name among Inuit. I believe many feel proud of the team as it represents them on the national sports stage in a way nothing else does or can, and many fear and are angry that that will be lost. I understand their perplexity also at the notions that the term is derogatory and racist. Either way, it seems inevitable now, might as well get prepared for it.

  12. Posted by Eskimo on

    Is this relevant to Infrastructure, Education, Health, and Social issues? Indigenous has many challenges across Canada! Not sure if this is being address to ITK admin. and there associates, and the MP!?!

  13. Posted by Inuk on

    Sponsors might be in sport of name change. Not listening to Inuit fans. Why did this go second time round.k

  14. Posted by Proud to be eskimo on

    It is great that a national team represents the name of eskimo
    They are like fans of eskimo.
    Maybe it makes them feel more tough like eskimos. Keep the name

  15. Posted by Dan Germain on

    In my opinion, there should be a plebiscite taken of the Inuit and Northern Cree with the right question asked to determine if the Edmonton Football Club should change their team name or leave it as it is. They alone should get to decide !

  16. Posted by concerned on

    Wow a lot of Inuit/ Eskimos do not know their History, Leaders who brought Nunavut did not like the word Eskimo and the way Inuit were treated in general, a lot of the people in the string here went through some kind of treatment from the “other” and do not remember the struggle people went through

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