The Edmonton club of the Canadian Football League is dropping the name of its longtime team – a move that follows allegations of racism by Indigenous politicians and threats from sponsors to withdraw support.
In a statement on Tuesday, the club’s chairman of the board said he was making the change due to recent community engagement and research on the matter.
For now, the club have said they will use the names EE Football Team and Edmonton Football Team, adding that they will undergo a “full engagement process” on a new name that will include season ticket holders, buyers of occasional tickets and partners.
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“People who championed the name only a year ago are less comfortable with it now,” board chair Janice Agrios said on a video conference. “The institutions are renowned all over the world. The change of our name is part of a radical societal change. “
The team’s decision to change their name comes as pressure builds across North America over the use of names and logos of sports teams that are perceived to be racist. The Washington National Football League team announced earlier this month that it would change their team’s name, the Chicago National Hockey League team has faced more scrutiny in recent weeks on his name and the Cleveland Major League Baseball team is exploring a potential name change.
Natan Obed, president of Canada’s national Inuit organization, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, thanked the team for making the change on Tuesday, adding that it was the result of the Indigenous people speaking. “The Inuit stood up and said that this had been used against many of us as an ethnic insult and that we are not mascots,” he told The Globe and Mail.
Mr Obed pleaded for the team to make the decision, saying Inuit are not mascots and that the term that was used for the team’s name was the last place in Canada where it was widely used.
“I’m really thankful that the Edmonton CFL has dropped that particular nickname,” he said. “It’s not something that belongs to today’s Canada and although the name was created with good intentions, it doesn’t really have a place in society anymore, especially as a term used for a football team.
It took courage and leadership for the Edmonton team to change its name, he added, noting that the change will have a positive impact on the future of Inuit society.
“I would like to think of today as one of those steps on the road to understanding and respect,” he said.
The Edmonton team’s long-standing name dates back to 1892, when city residents unofficially adopted it after a Calgary reporter called the team “those Eskimos of the North.” The team then officially took over the name and the current edition of the Edmonton Football Club began in 1949.
The club, which have resisted calls for a name change, recently announced that they would be conducting a review and vowed the process would be completed by the end of the month. He also commissioned a research firm, Abacus Data, to conduct an investigation on behalf of the team as part of this review.
Mr Obed said the investigation amounted to a straw poll on racism and was unethical.
The club said on Tuesday that the recent findings show that opinions regarding the name are changing.
He said that while many fans are “deeply committed” to keeping the name, others are increasingly uncomfortable with him.
“The long-term viability of the club requires everyone to support this change and continue to support the team, especially in these difficult financial times,” the club said.
He also said that for over 100 years the club and its predecessor have celebrated “the hardiness and the spirit” of those who live in the north. The club added that its values of community, integrity, respect and inclusion will not change with the name decision.
Over the past few weeks, the Edmonton team have been under the microscope of their name, especially from the sponsors.
Boston Pizza has completely ended its association with the team, while insurance provider belairdirect has threatened to withdraw its sponsorship if the team does not change its name.
Edmonton has also faced calls from NDP MP for Nunavut, Mumilaaq Qaqqaq, who is Inuk, to change his name.
Edmonton’s name change is long overdue, Ms Qaqqaq said on Tuesday, adding that it was a step in the right direction.
“We are not a mascot. I think people have finally come to respect that.
With a report from The Canadian Press