Anger Over Edmonton Eskimos' Name Reignites After Black Lives Matter Posts

The team has long been criticized over its insensitive name.
Quarterback Trevor Harris, seen here at a 2019 game with the Hamilton Tiger Cats, is part of the Edmonton-based Canadian Football League (CFL) team that's been long-criticized over its insensitive name.
Quarterback Trevor Harris, seen here at a 2019 game with the Hamilton Tiger Cats, is part of the Edmonton-based Canadian Football League (CFL) team that's been long-criticized over its insensitive name.

Edmonton’s professional football team is getting ridiculed for claiming to support Black Lives Matter, while still going by a name offensive to Inuit people.

The CFL’s Edmonton Eskimos are among many sports teams who lit up their social media accounts with statements of solidarity with Black communities protesting police brutality. But they’re also among the same teams with names based on Indigenous stereotypes, bringing criticism of poor allyship.

“We seek to understand what it must feel like to live in fear going birding, jogging, or even relaxing in the comfort of your home,” the first statement from the Edmonton team starts, referencing recent examples of Black Americans being intimidated or murdered, while going about their daily lives. It concludes with an expression of solidarity: “We stand with those who are outraged, who are hurt and who hope for a better tomorrow.”

The post was followed by a black square and the hashtag ”#blackouttuesday,” a well-intentioned campaign to support Black musicians that’s been criticized for taking space away from useful resources.

Anger over the statement was swift and reignited years-long calls for a name change, with Canadian singer and actor Jann Arden joining the fray.

Indigenous notables added nuance to the conversation, including Nunavut NDP MP Mumilaaq Qaqqaq and Inuk singer Tanya Tagaq.

In 2017, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had weighed in on this longstanding issue at a press conference, when he said that talks about a name change were needed on a local level.

“This is a discussion and a reflection that the city of Edmonton certainly needs to undertake,” he said. “Reconciliation is not just about Indigenous people and the government. It’s about all of us as Canadians, non-Indigenous as well.”

The Edmonton team decided not to change their name earlier this year after consulting Inuit leaders, the Toronto Star reported. But, as a Nunatsiaq News op-ed by Inuk politician Natan Obed highlighted, the lack of consensus within communities doesn’t erase the hurt felt by Inuit people who see the name as derogatory.

Watch: CFL team name change a discussion Edmonton needs to have, Trudeau says. Story continues below.

Other sports teams that use Indigenous caricatures have faced similar backlash this week. U.S. congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez lambasted the Washington NFL team for their attempt at racial sensitivity.

Posts by the baseball teams in Atlanta, Cleveland and Kansas City have resulted in similar feedback, during this time of turmoil over anti-Black injustice.