News / Edmonton

Edmonton Eskimos invite fans into debate on name change

For the first time, the Eskimos are asking fans to chime in on the name change in their annual season ticket holder survey.

A helmet belonging to a Edmonton Eskimos player is seen on the field during a team practice session in Winnipeg on Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2015.

JOHN WOODS / The Canadian Press

A helmet belonging to a Edmonton Eskimos player is seen on the field during a team practice session in Winnipeg on Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2015.

What's in a name? The Edmonton Eskimos want your opinion — if you're a season ticket holder.

For the first time, the Edmonton Eskimos football team has included a question about changing the team's name in their annual fan survey for season seat holders.

The name has attracted controversy and calls for a rebranding because it has traditionally been perceived as a derogatory word for Inuit people.

“We have been asking people to share their thoughts with us on an informal basis up to this point in time, but felt it is important to do something more formal in 2018,” said Eskimos spokesperson Allan Watt in an emailed statement.

Some historians say the word comes from the Algonquin term for “eaters of raw meat,” while others contend it means “people wearing snowshoes.”

Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson has called for the name to be changed, as has Natan Obed, president of the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami organization.

“The fact that it is still okay for the Edmonton football team to use that name every single day when it is not okay to use it in any other context to describe our people? That’s something we need to come to terms with,” he told Metro in 2016.

But the team has continued to resist calls to change the name. Part of that may be because of the connection fans such as Chantelle Miller have to the team and its branding.  

Miller has been a season ticket holder for 23 years and has never missed a home game, playoff game or Grey Cup in Edmonton.

She said she would be “open to a discussion” on changing the name and believes Inuit perspectives are important. But she also believes the fans should have a say.

“It’s a tough one for me,” Miller said. “I would definitely be open to something like a roundtable or town hall to hear from the people that say the name hurts them.”

She said she believes the team has been respectful by not using a cartoon mascot like Chief Wahoo of the Cleveland Indians, who was recently removed from the MLB team’s branding.

“Do I think Eskimos is in the same boat as Redskin? I don’t,” Miller said, referencing the Washington Redskins of the NFL.

“For me, (the name reflects) a sense of pride and a sense of love. But, I am white,” she added.

She said she’s glad the team is taking the discussion seriously and points to the fact this is the first time they’ve formally included in it their annual fan survey.

“At least it shows that they’re listening.”

~With files from THE CANADIAN PRESS

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