The Edmonton Football Club will discontinue the use of the word “Eskimo” in the team’s name, the board of directors announced Tuesday.
“People who defended the name only a year ago are less comfortable with it now,” board chair Janice Agrios said at a news conference.
“Institutions are being renamed around the world. The change to our name is part of a sweeping societal change.”
The team’s current name has been criticized as insensitive or even racist and Agrios said the team’s most recent opinion research showed that views about the name are shifting quickly.
“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.”
Recent threats by sponsors to withdraw support if the team did not change its name played a secondary role in the decision, she said.
“Our sponsors made it clear that they support this decision, and we appreciate the ongoing support they will be providing as we work through the implementation of this decision.”
‘We identified with this name’
Agrios said that though the name was always used respectfully and was part of the team’s identity, the organization has, in recent years, come to understand the concerns surrounding its use.
“To those of us who spent our formative years bundling up to sit in the stands and cheer on our team in below-zero temperatures, the name Eskimos meant tough, resilient, never give up. It also meant community and respect. We identified with this name.
“We know that those who originally named the team did not intend to be disrespectful or derogatory — in fact, the very opposite,” she said.
“They were proud to associate themselves with such a resilient northern people. The alliteration of the two words, our northern location — the name felt like a natural fit.
“However, while we might relate to Inuit values, that doesn’t mean we can continue to use this name.”
Search for new name begins
The team will begin a “comprehensive engagement process” to find a new name.
Team president and CEO Chris Presson called the name change a monumental, historic occasion in the history of the team.
He believes fans will continue to support the club no matter the name and called for unity rather than divisiveness.
“This is tough for long-time fans, no question, but 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.
The process will involve research and “input from season seat holders, casual ticket purchasers and partners,” the team said.
Presson noted the team was not far into the process and could not give a specific timeline, but said the chance to choose a new name “that captures those Edmonton values” was a great opportunity and that the list of possibilities was growing every day.
The team said the green-and-gold team colours and the EE logo will be part of the discussions.
In the meantime, the club will use the names EE Football Team and Edmonton Football Team.
Presson asked the city and fans for their patience.
“We need your help in building a new legacy and a new dynasty with a new name.”
Last week, the National Football League team in Washington announced it will retire its name and logo after pressure from sponsors.