Edmonton CFL team officially drops name

"While we might relate to Inuit values, it doesn’t mean we can continue to use this name.”

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Until the franchise finds a new name, Edmonton’s CFL team will opt to go by the EE Football Team and Edmonton Football Team. (Nunatsiaq News file photo)

The CFL’s Edmonton team has made it official: After months of consultation and public pressure, the franchise will drop its name.

The football team announced its widely anticipated plans to discontinue the use of the word “Eskimo” in the team’s name during a teleconference on Tuesday.

“In recent years we’ve come to understand the concerns with the name,” said Janice Agrios, the team’s chairperson. “We know that those who originally chose the name did not mean to be disrespectful or derogatory; in fact, the very opposite — they were proud to associate themselves with such a resilient people.

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

Following a year-long engagement with Inuit communities, the football club announced this past February that it intended to keep its 100-year-old name. The franchise said it found no consensus on the use of the team name, even though some Inuit consider it a slur.

But renewed calls emerged this spring for a number of sports teams to remove team names depicting Indigenous peoples as emblems or mascots. The National Football League’s Washington Redskins announced it would retire its name and logo earlier this month.

Faced with increased pressure from both fans and sponsors, the Edmonton franchise opted to relaunch consultations with Inuit communities and stakeholders earlier this month.

Team president and CEO Chris Presson said those latest consultations found “a dramatic shift in the opinions of the way the name is perceived.”

Presson said there are no set details on how and when a new name will be chosen. In the meantime, the club will use the names EE Football Team and Edmonton Football Team.

As it moves towards new branding, the franchise said it hopes to include Inuit in that process.

“Our intent is to engage with the northern communities, especially in the western Arctic, where we’ve made deep and long-lasting relationships,” Presson said. “I think it would make perfect sense to do so.”

Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami welcomed the name change July 21, which happened almost five years after its president Natan Obed, first penned first a piece about why the moniker is harmful to Inuit.

“ITK has consistently maintained that ongoing use of the team’s name is damaging to Inuit and to reconciliation,” the organization said in a statement July 22. “The process of recognizing and responding to these harmful effects is key to reconciliation between Inuit and Canada, and contributes to the monumental work required to dismantle systemic racism.”

“We thank the Edmonton team for reaching this important decision and wish them well in their process to determine a new name,” ITK said.

“We also thank them for the relationships they have built with Inuit over the past several years and hope that they continue to celebrate Inuit fans and to work with Inuit across our homeland, Inuit Nunangat.”