CFL's Edmonton Eskimos follow Washington's lead, drop controversial indigenous nickname

A week after Washington’s NFL team dropped its indigenous nickname, a CFL team is doing the same.

The Edmonton Eskimos announced Tuesday that they are changing their name. The removal of the nickname is another sports step in a larger culture shift.

The team has not yet decided on a new name.

“Our board of directors has made the decision to discontinue use of the word “Eskimo,” a team statement posted on the “EE Football Team” Twitter page reads. “We’ll be known as the Edmonton Football Team or EE Football Team while we go through the process of determining a new name befitting our storied team.”

Team rejected previous calls for change

The Edmonton football team was founded in 1949 as the Eskimos. Like Washington’s team, Edmonton’s repeatedly resisted calls to change its name and did so as recently as February after a yearlong study into changing the name.

“We heard a wide range of views, ranging from individuals within the Inuit community who were very supportive of the name, and some [who] weren’t as supportive,” board chair Janice Agrios said in February, per Sportsnet. “What we did consistently hear was a desire for more engagement with the club.”

Like Washington, Edmonton's football team will have a new nickname. (Photo by David Kirouac/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Controversy behind nickname

Use of “Eskimo” as a sports mascot in Canada dates back to the 19th century, according to the Edmonton Journal. It’s considered by many to be a derogatory term that was placed on the Inuit people by colonizers.

According to the Edmonton Journal, controversy around the nickname surfaced on a large scale in 2015. President of Canada’s national Inuit organization Natan Obed called for change as the team made a run to a Grey Cup championship.

“It isn’t right for any team to be named after an ethnic group,” Obed said in 2015. “This is part of the past. It isn’t part of the present and shouldn’t be part of the future.”

Edmonton’s football team engaged with leaders of the Inuit tribe after Obed’s statement, but didn’t make the name change until Tuesday.

“Our team has a long history of winning — both on and off the field — and we will continue to do so going forward,” board chair Janice Agrios said in a statement, per Sportsnet. “We feel it is important to make this change in response to the findings of our recent engagement and research. Going forward, we want the focus to be on the work we do in the community and our team’s excellence on the field as the CFL’s most successful franchise.”

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