'Concrete action in the near future': Eskimos sponsor to end deal with team if name isn't changed
EDMONTON -- A major sponsor of Edmonton's Canadian Football League team says it will end its relationship with the club if the team's name isn't changed.
Belairdirect, a national car and home insurance company, says the Eskimos moniker is no longer suitable.
"At Belairdirect one of our core values is respect, which is founded on seeing diversity as a strength, being inclusive and collaborative," reads a statement from the company.
"In order for us to move forward and continue on with our partnership with the Edmonton Eskimos, we will need to see concrete action in the near future including a name change. We have shared our position with the team."
Belairdirect is a longtime sponsor of the team's 50/50 draw at Commonwealth Stadium.
The team didn't respond with immediate comment but said it was working on a response.
On Friday, the Eskimos issued a statement pledging further engagement with Inuit communities around the future of the team's name.
"We recognize that there has been increased attention to the name recently and we will ramp up our ongoing engagement with the Inuit communities to assess their views," the team said.
Earlier this year, the club announced it had no plans to change its name after a year-long research and engagement program with Canadian Inuit leaders.
"We are the CFL’s most northern team and we want to continue to build our relationship with the Inuit community," Janice Agrios, the chair of the team's board of directors, said in February.
"This is a very important initiative for us."
The team has faced mounting criticism over its team name, with Canada's national Inuit organization saying the term and name is offensive.
CTV News contacted the 13 "premier partners" currently listed on the team's website. Four of them responded, including Belairdirect.
A spokesman for TFB & Associates, the Canadian brand owners of lozenge manufacturer Fisherman's Friend, said the issue is "something we have been following closely."
"We support Edmonton’s CFL team’s re-engagement in discussions with the Inuit communities and are looking forward to the timely and respectful progression of those conversations along with a positive outcome for all."
Boston Pizza declined to comment noting it no longer sponsors the team, despite being listed on the site.
A spokesman for the chain says the decision to end its relationship with the club came "prior to recent events in society" and was part of a shift in marketing strategy away from legacy sponsorships of pro teams.
An employee for SportsInteraction, an online sportsbook, acknowledged CTV News' request and said it had been passed along to the company's public relations team. CTV News has yet to receive a reply.
The Brick, Molson Coors, Discount Car and Truck Rental, James H. Brown and Associates, Jiffy Lube, Save on Foods, Servus Credit Union, Telus and Tim Hortons all did not respond to media requests.
CTV News has also reached out to the CFL for comment but has yet to hear back. In the past, the league has said the decision lies with the team.
TEAM NAME REVIEW
Last week, the National Football League's Washington Redskins announced the team was undergoing a "thorough review" of its team name.
The team said recent events around the U.S. and feedback from the community prompted the formal review.
NFL uniform manufacturer Nike removed the team's gear from its online store with retailers Wal-Mart and Target soon following suit.
FedEx, the title sponsor of the Redskins' stadium in Landover, Maryland, said Thursday, "We have communicated to the team in Washington our request that they change the team name."
Also on Friday, Major League Baseball's Cleveland Indians announced they too were reviewing their team name.
"We are committed to making a positive impact in our community and embrace our responsibility to advance social justice and equality," the team said in a statement that came just hours after the Washington NFL team's announcement.
"Our organization fully recognizes our team name is among the most visible ways in which we connect with the community."
With files from the Associated Press