Reports say Edmonton Eskimos ready to make name change

By Gerry Moddejonge

Edmonton’s Canadian Football League franchise is lining up a new team name.

The decision, which has been arrived at within the organization but is yet to be announced, comes one day after holding their annual general meeting with media and shareholders via video conference.

“The nail in the coffin was when the Washington Redskins came out and retired their name and logo this week,” a source within the organization, who wished to remain anonymous, told Postmedia on Thursday. “I don’t see how there is any way we can continue on using the name.”

Club president Chris Presson met with Edmonton Ward 4 Coun. Aaron Paquette early Thursday afternoon, where the topic of the team’s derogatory name — the Edmonton Eskimos — was front and centre.

“I had an extremely productive meeting with Edmonton’s own football team today after they accepted my invitation to share ideas and perspectives,” Paquette, an award-winning Indigenous artist and author, posted on Twitter. “I was very impressed with the potential coming out of our conversation.

“I can’t say any more, but we’ll see what develops.”

Presson responded to a request for further details simply by saying, “We have no further updates.”

But later that afternoon, CFL broadcast partner TSN reported sources told Ryan Rishaug the club has made an internal decision to change its name, with an announcement to come as early as next week.

Public outcry for the club to send its monicker the way of the dodo has been ramping up since the team’s official Twitter feed painted a hypocritical target on its back in calling for an end to racial inequality following the killing of George Floyd at the hands of police in Minnesota.

Since then, the club announced it would be undergoing further review into its research and outreach into Canada’s Inuit population, which had begun soon after the issue was brought into the national spotlight by Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami president Natan Obed during their 2015 Grey Cup championship.

“We would prefer to comment once the team has gone on the record with the news,” read a correspondence from Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, when approached Thursday by Postmedia.

On July 7, Bel Air Direct, who has attached its name to the successful 50-50 raffles held during Edmonton’s home games, was the first club sponsor to announce it would be parting ways with the team should it continue using its current name.

The following day, the club’s response showed just how loud money talks.

“We acknowledge and appreciate the feedback and input regarding our name,” read a press release from the team. “We take this issue seriously, as has been demonstrated by the three years we’ve spent engaging in Canada’s North and conducting research related to our name. We recognize that a lot has occurred since this information was gathered, and as a result, we are accelerating our ongoing process of review.

“We will be seeking further input from the Inuit, our partners and other stakeholders to inform our decisions moving forward. We’ll continue to listen carefully and with an open mind. We intend to complete our review as quickly as possible and will provide an update on these discussions by the end of this month.”

On Wednesday, Janice Agrios, who is chairwoman of the club’s board of directors, provided some numbers into the internal research they have been conducting over the past three years.

“The research revealed that 78 per cent of the Western Arctic Inuit oppose the team changing (its name). In Nunavut, where we are still working on building our relationships, 55 per cent of Inuit oppose a change,” said the club’s first female chairman of the board. “In the Eastern Arctic, where the results identified little connection to the team, 31 per cent of Inuit oppose a name change.

“Due to the recent debate concerning our name, we have committed to seeking further input on this topic. Our perspective that Inuit input is crucial to this process has not changed. Outreach and discussions have commenced, and we will provide an update on this matter by the end of July 2020.”

On March 13, 2018, the football team filed to trademark the name Edmonton Empire for souvenirs, toys, sporting goods and gear. The Edmonton Eskimos name has been used since well before this iteration of the football team officially began in 1949.