Pressure mounts for Edmonton’s football club to act on a name change

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

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“We acknowledge and appreciate the feedback and input regarding our name,” Edmonton’s CFL club said this week. (Image courtesy of the CFL via Nunatsiaq News)

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 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.

[As other leagues rethink racist team names, it’s time to rename Edmonton’s CFL team]

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, 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, and to continue consulting different Inuit groups.