The Edmonton Eskimos will change their name.
The CFL squad made the move Tuesday, following a similar decision by the NFL’s Washington team as pressure mounts on teams to eliminate racist or stereotypical names.
The team said in a release it will begin “a comprehensive engagement process” on a new name. In the meantime, the club will use the names EE Football Team and Edmonton Football Team.
The decision comes less than a week after two published reports said the Eskimos were on the verge of changing their name.
Critics say the Edmonton team’s name is a derogatory, colonial-era term for Inuit.
In February, the Edmonton club announced it was keeping the name following 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, Edmonton promised to speed up another review of its name and provide an update by the end of the month. In that statement, the club 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.
Other sponsors also said they would welcome a review of the name.
Boston Pizza said “as part of a larger shift in our overall marketing strategy, Boston Pizza recently ended its sponsorship of Edmonton’s CFL team.” It tweeted the statement as a response to someone asking about whether it planned to follow the lead of Belairdirect.
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 would 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, and there is no guarantee the league will play this year.
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 that 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.
Edmonton set a North American pro sports record by qualifying for the playoffs in 34 straight seasons from 1972 to 2005.
Other sports teams in Edmonton used the Eskimos name before the CFL club was founded.
The team applied for the trademark “Edmonton Empire” in 2018 for use on souvenir items.
© The Canadian Press