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A Canadian Football Team Accused of Racism Just Denounced Racism

The Edmonton Eskimos issued a statement on Sunday in solidarity with North American-wide protests fighting anti-Black racism. But they still haven't changed their problematic name.
June 1, 2020, 4:10pm
Edmonton Eskimos logo
The CFL's Edmonton Eskimos haven't changed its name despite years of calls for it to do so. Photo by Peter Power (CP)

A Canadian football team that has repeatedly skirted allegations of racism for its name has issued a statement in solidarity with protesters fighting against anti-Black racism across North America.

“We stand with those who are outraged, who are hurt, and who hope for a better tomorrow,” said a statement shared by the Edmonton Eskimos over social media on Sunday.

The post received an onslaught of responses from social media users calling for the team to change its name.

Police officer Derek Chauvin was videotaped on May 25 while kneeling on the neck of a 46-year-old Black man, George Floyd. Floyd visibly lost consciousness and ultimately died, sparking protests across North America in cities like Minneapolis, New York, Atlanta, and Toronto, with people demanding justice for Floyd as well as an end to violent, systemic anti-Black racism.

Akwasi Owusu-Bempah, a professor of sociology at the University of Toronto, said actions speak louder than words.

“It’s one thing to come out and stand in solidarity (with ongoing protests), but without concrete action—especially when facing allegations of racism—those words are meaningless,” Owusu-Bempah said.

While the statement may have come from “good intention,” Owusu-Bempah said, it also may have been issued because it’s a “fashionable thing to do.”

“It’s great that various parties are drawing attention to important and pressing issues,” he said, before reiterating that the team should also hold itself accountable for its own wrongdoings.

The Edmonton Eskimos have come under fire several times over the years for sporting a name that is culturally insensitive towards Inuit peoples and Indigenous communities more broadly.

Inuit throat singer Tanya Tagaq even took to Twitter in 2017 to say a name change of Edmonton’s football team would send a “glorious message” that would “set a new precedent of respect.”

Three years later, the team still hasn’t changed the name, even after the Canadian Press reported in 2019 that the franchise researched public perceptions of the name, and consulted with Inuit leaders.

Edmonton Eskimos spokesperson, Rose Phillip, said the team will "continue to engage on this matter."

The Edmonton Eskimos is not the only team that continues to receive calls for a name change. The Washington Redskins appropriates Indigenous stereotypes through its name and logo, and McGill University changed the name of its men’s varsity sports teams a year ago from the “Redmen” to the McGill Team, a placeholder until a new name is announced, after Indigenous students said they felt alienated by it.

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June 1, 2020 at 12:30 p.m. (EDT): This story was updated to include comment from the Edmonton Eskimos.