The Edmonton Football Team, formerly known as the Edmonton Eskimos, is the latest professional sports franchise to announce it will be changing their name. The current title is simply a placeholder while the Canadian Football League (CFL) can decide on a new name “that captures those Edmonton values,” CBC reported.
“Institutions are being renamed around the world. The change to our name is part of a sweeping societal change,” Janice Agrios, Edmonton Football’s Board Chair, said.
The move comes the week after Washington D.C.’s NFL franchise announced it would be dropping their own name, as The Inquisitr reported, although Agrios insisted their decision to change the team’s name had been in the works well before that.
“No one event sparked the decision. We’ve had open conversations with partners, community and fans about this issue for several years now. We’re proud of the engagement that we’ve done.”
While the “Eskimos” nickname dates back to the club’s inception in 1949 and was free of bad intentions or disrespect, the use of the word is a fragile topic. The term originates from an Indigenous language called Ojibwe, which is still spoken in some areas of the Great Lakes in both the U.S. and Canada. But the word is often used in a derogatory manner and holds negative connotations dating back generations to when white colonizers first encountered the Inuits of what is now Canada, Alaska, and Greenland.
Natan Obed, President of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, a national Inuit organization, stated that Indigenous people have been enduring racism since Canada’s founding and it comes in a variety of different forms.
“This is just closing one of those avenues for systemic racism to exist.”
The football club’s CEO, Tom Presson, admitted that while this will be a tough time for fans, he’s confident the Edmonton organization and fanbase can move forward in a positive direction.
“Here’s the thing, we’re all a team. Our team, and game day itself, are designed to unite people…to bring people together for a half day so they can leave their worries and struggles behind,” he said.
Now the search for a new name begins, a process that will involve input from casual fans, season ticket holders, and corporate partners alike, CBC reported.
It’s unclear if anything will be finalized in time for the start of the 2020 season, which was already pushed back from its scheduled June start as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. The league tentatively plans to play an abbreviated season, with games set to start in September.