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Edmonton Eskimos face backlash on Twitter as calls for name change rise

A helmet sits on the sidelines during an Edmonton Eskimos' practice at Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton, Alberta. File photo.
A helmet sits on the sidelines during an Edmonton Eskimos' practice at Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton, Alberta. File photo.

The Edmonton Eskimos are experiencing a backlash on social media after the team rebuffed renewed calls to drop a name critics say is racist.

“We recognize that there has been increased attention to the name recently and we will ramp up our engagement with the Inuit communities to assess their views,” the CFL team’s official Twitter account posted.

As of Saturday afternoon, the post had nearly 1,000 replies, almost 1,000 retweets and more than 1,200 likes.

Many of the replies simply read, “Change your name.”

User Lois Lowe wrote, “Just change the name and be part of the solution, not the problem. If you have to engage with communities about your name, it’s already an issue.”

In February, the Eskimos decided to keep the team name after a year-long process engaging with Inuit communities, which they referred to in their Friday tweet.

“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 the Inuit in various parts of northern Canada,” the team wrote.

That statement provoked a negative response from Nunavut MP Mumilaaq Qaqqaq.

“The fact that there was NO CONSENSUS means CHANGE THE NAME,” she wrote. “I look forward to hearing from you as the member of parliament for 25 of 47 Inuit Nunangat communities.”

Another user with the name Morgan chimed in by saying, “Lifelong Eskimos fan and current season ticket holder. If changing the name is what needs to happen then you have my full support. I’m an Edmonton football fan no matter the name on the jersey (back or front).”

Some users indicated they’re fine with the name not changing, and others offered alternative names like the Edmonton Elks or Energy or Empire.

The discussion about the Eskimos name comes amid renewed pressure on the Washington Redskins to change its name. Owner Dan Snyder has announced he would consider changing the name of the NFL team after FedEx Corp, who owns the naming rights for the team’s stadium, called for a rebranding.

This isn’t the first time the team’s name has been brought up to be changed. Mayor Don Iveson had told reporters in back in November 2017 the team should consider changing its name after Winnipeg’s first Métis mayor, Brian Bowman, said he thinks there is an opportunity for “a more inclusive” name.

In 2015, during the team’s Grey Cup run, Natan Obed, president of the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, an organization that represents 60,000 Canadian Inuit, said  the name should be changed, calling it “derogatory.”

“It isn’t right for any team to be named after an ethnic group,” he said. “This is part of the past. It isn’t part of the present and shouldn’t be part of the future.”

When reached Saturday, a spokesperson for Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami referred Postmedia to prior statements.

— With files from Reuters and Postmedia

nmartin@postmedia.com

Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2020

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