CFL Eskimos Facing Pressure to Change Name

The United States isn’t the only country facing calls to change pro sports names, the Canadian Football League’s Edmonton Eskimos, like the Washington Redskins, have been served an ultimatum from a corporate sponsor because of their name.

Belairdirect, a Canadian-based insurance company issued the warning to the Eskimos yesterday that they will end their partnership if the name remains.

The company issued a statement regarding their position to CBC News:

“One of our core values is respect, which is founded on seeing diversity as a strength, being inclusive and collaborative. Guided by this value, in order for us to move forward and continue on with our partnership, we will need to see concrete action in the near future including a commitment to a name change.”

The Edmonton Eskimos released this statement on July 3, 2020

The Eskimos had released a statement earlier this month saying they had no intentions to change the name, this followed a similar pledge made by the team in February.

The response to the Eskimos from Mumilaaq Qaqqaq, member of Parliament for Nunavut

Natan Obed, president of the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami wrote an editorial in the Nunatsiaq News back in December 2015 expressing their thoughts on the Eskimos name.

“Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami has demanded that the Edmonton Canadian Football League team stop using the moniker ‘Eskimos’ as part of an ongoing fight against colonization in the name of reconciliation … The colonial legacy of naming is about power and control. The issue of Inuit being used as a sports team mascot matters, because this is the way this legacy continues to play out in popular culture. This issue is about our right to self-determine who we are on our own terms. We are not mascots or emblems … This stance has been supported by many Inuit, although I fully understand and appreciate that not all Inuit view the term as offensive.”

Natan Obed, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami president (December 2015)

Edmonton’s “Eskimos” name dates back to the late 19th Century. As was usually the case back then, the name began as an unofficial nickname used by the media before being adopted officially by the club a few years later. The Calgary press had dubbed Edmonton’s rugby team the “Esquimaux”, an apparent shot at how far north the city was located.

An Edmonton Eskimos game program from 1962

If there’s a name change that comes from this, the team could use the name Edmonton Empire, which they trademarked back in March 2018. It’s both already owned by the club and would allow the continued use of their “EE” logo.

The news follows that of the NFL’s Washington Redskins and baseball’s Cleveland Indians both saying they would re-evaluate their current names. The NHL’s Chicago Blackhawks recently said they would not be changing their name — the Blackhawks are named after the “Blackhawk Division”, an infantry division during the First World War, that division was named for Black Hawk, a Sauk leader who lived in the area now known as Illinois.

Edmonton Eskimos logo and uniform history


UPDATE (Jul 8/20 12:23pm ET): The Edmonton Eskimos have released another statement this afternoon saying they will consult with the Inuit community and team partners about the name and will have an answer by the end of the month (which gives them just enough time to get that Edmonton Empire merchandise into production).