Potential Edmonton Eskimos name change is not imminent

July 3, 2018: It's a debate that tends to pop up every year: should the Edmonton Eskimos change their team name? The club has said it uses the name Eskimos out of respect for people living in Canada's North. On Tuesday, Eskimos president Len Rhodes spoke to Kevin Karius about a recent public consultation he took part in to discuss the name.

The Edmonton Eskimos have no immediate plans to change their name.

The CFL franchise has spent the past couple of years speaking with Inuit leaders and conducting research on the impact of the Eskimos name on the Inuit community. And the club plans to do much more before being in a position to determine the final results of its efforts.

READ MORE: Edmonton Eskimos president not committing to name change after northern tour

Despite a social media report Monday suggesting Edmonton would be changing its name to Empire, Allan Watt, a marketing and communications official with the Eskimos, said there’s nothing imminent regarding a new team monicker.

“We’ve been doing many phases of research and been up north and done extensive research there,” Watt said. “It was not about changing our name.

“It was asking (Inuit leaders) about how they feel about our name. And there’s a big difference between the two.”

READ MORE: McGill drops controversial Redmen name

On Friday, McGill University announced it was changing the name of its men’s varsity sports teams, who were called the Redmen. Suzanne Fortier, McGill’s principal and vice-chancellor said the name made Indigenous students feel alienated.

Watt said the Edmonton club purposefully hired and international research company to help them gather information on the potential impact of the Eskimos’ name on the Inuit community.

“When we embarked on this process, one of the things we wanted to do was make sure that we were getting answers from people without us in the room,” he said. “There’s only one way to do that and that’s get somebody else asking.

“This is something that’s been our name since 1910 … and we want to make the right decisions, not quick decisions.

“We’d be remiss if we didn’t do extensive research, if we didn’t do it thoroughly and if we didn’t do it in the north… none of us should pretend to speak for people who are Inuit.”

Watt said there’s no timetable regarding when the research results will be compiled. Until that’s done, it’s unfair to speculate whether the CFL club will or won’t change its name.

“We don’t have the research results so there’s no point,” he said.

“We’re not researching a name change, we’re researching how people feel about our name.”

The Eskimos name is near and dear to CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie’s heart. The veteran offensive lineman finished his career in Edmonton (1989-93), winning a Grey Cup with the franchise in his final season before retiring.

READ MORE: What’s in a name? CFL’s Edmonton Eskimos team name hotly debated

Shortly after becoming commissioner, Ambrosie commended the Eskimos for the process they were taking regarding their team name. But he also admitted a name change would be difficult to imagine, given all the memories he has as a former Eskimos player.

“When you’ve got jerseys tucked away that you’ll want pass on to your kids and maybe grandkids one day because you’re so proud of it… the idea of that name going away is hard to fathom,” Ambrosie told The Canadian Press.

“But I also know times change and so we have the conversation and we see where it takes us.”

Watch Below (Nov. 24, 2017): Inuit Canadians say it’s time for the Edmonton Eskimos to change their name. The CFL team has used it since 1949, but now some say it’s time for it to go. Reid Fiest reports.

© 2019 The Canadian Press

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