News / Edmonton

Team has 'No plans' to drop Eskimos name

Despite mounting criticism, team says use of term is "respectful."

Metro file.

As calls amplified for the Edmonton Eskimos to re-examine their name Monday, the team's president said there are “no plans” to do so.

“Times have changed, there’s no doubt, but it’s over six decades that we’ve used the name,” Len Rhodes said.

His comments were offered Monday after Toronto Mayor John Tory, who formerly served as the commissioner of the CFL, told reporters changing the Eskimos moniker “would be a very good step forward to make, in a province where there are a number of issues that concern First Nations and indigenous people.”

The reoccurring discussion of indigenous-inspired team names reignited recently after world-renowned architect Douglas Cardinal unsuccessfully sought a court injunction to stop the Cleveland baseball team from using their name and logo while in Toronto to play the Blue Jays.

The team’s logo is a red-skinned man named 'Chief Wahoo.'  
 
As often happens with these discussions, the uproar then moved west, after critics pointed out many Inuit find the 'Eskimos' name offensive.

But Rhodes argues it’s not the same.

“For us, we associate it with a group of people that talk about perseverance, determination and courage… it really represents all the people from the North in such a positive way," he said. “We don’t think those are comparable whatsoever. We don’t use logos, we don’t use caricatures or cartoons.”  

After Natan Obed, president of the national Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, wrote an op-ed last year condemning the name, Rhodes said the two had a “fabulous, cordial conversation.”

But the team listens to all opinions, he said, adding there’s no consensus within the Inuit community on the name.

He also said before his meeting with Obed in January he’d never had anyone from the Inuit community express concerns.

Norma Dunning, a spokesperson for the Inuit Edmontonmiut, a group that represents the city’s Inuit population, said the team's name is offensive and inaccurate.

She added the team has never reached out to the Inuit Edmontonmiut.

“It’s not solely up to us, as indigenous Canadians, to figure out how to make reconciliation work,” she said. “Many indigenous scholars have said we’ve gone to you over and over, now is the time for you to come to us.”

She said the conversation is needed now. “It’s time.”

Mayor Don Iveson said Monday the team-name question is "an important one to grapple with and ultimately it's one for the team to make.”

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