By Jake Cardinal
(ANNews) – In this new decade tensions are high as Black Lives Matter is back in the spotlight after the killing of George Floyd; the Canadian border is closed as COVID-19 spreads across the globe; half of Oklahoma has been declared Native land; and the Edmonton Eskimos are facing criticism over their name.
The Team’s Statement
On July 3, 2020 the Edmonton Eskimos said in a statement that they “conducted an extensive research engagement program with Canada’s Inuit community” regarding their name.
The team stated, “We announced the findings from that program several months ago which included the fact that there was no consensus among the Inuit people and considerable support for the Eskimos name among Inuit in various parts of northern Canada.
“We recognize that there has been increased attention to the name recently and we will ramp our ongoing engagement with the Inuit communities to assess their views,” finished the Tweet.
In a Globe and Mail article it is reported that the team says its club name invokes “toughness, hardiness and the ability to perform in cold weather,” especially during the frigid Edmonton winter temperatures.
The club is quoted as saying that some Inuit have stated that the “Edmonton Eskimos’ record of winning Grey Cups in part comes from this toughness.”
In response to the Twitter post, Nunavut MP Mumilaaq Qaqqaq wrote, “The fact that there was NO CONSENSUS means CHANGE THE NAME. I look forward to hearing from you as the member of parliament for 25 of 47 Inuit Nunangat communities.”
Qaqqaq said the explanation of the team’s history speaks to the “club’s incompetence and the need for the team to change its name” and she questioned what Inuit the team is speaking with.
“It makes no sense to me whatsoever,” she said.
“I don’t understand how in this day and age that we are having a conversation and we are treating it like a debate. For the record, this shouldn’t be a debate.”
Edmonton Councillor, Aaron Paquette, said in a statement, “First, I am not Inuit. Second, it’s a bit like asking an opinion on whether or not gravity exists. We have science for that.
“And we have science that explored the negative impact on Indigenous communities, especially the youth, when their culture, words, or likenesses are used by non-Indigenous corporate entities as logos, brands, or marketing.
“The result is clear: it has a negative effect on the self-esteem and the well being of people within the affected community.”
Sponsorship is Threatened
Boston Pizza, a sponsor for the Edmonton Eskimos, pulled their sponsorship completely. The franchise said in a Twitter post, “as part of a larger shift in our overall marketing strategy, Boston Pizza recently ended its sponsorship of Edmonton’s CFL team.”
Then major Edmonton Eskimos sponsor and Insurance provider, Belairdirect, threatened to pull sponsorship unless something is done about the name.
The insurance provider released in a statement, “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. We have shared our position with the team.”
The Team Speeds Up Second Review
After that, the Edmonton Eskimos announced that they were speeding up a second review of the name and will have plans by the end of the month.
“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,” they announced.
On July 13, 2020 The National Football League’s Washington franchise, the Redskins, announced it would be changing their name and logo.
The team stated they would be conducting a review because “we want to keep our sponsors, fans and community apprised of our thinking as we go forward.”
The decision comes after sponsors like FedEx and other corporations put the pressure on the team to change their name, with Nike and Amazon even removing all team merchandise from their online stores.
Jake Cardinal is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter.