Edmonton CFL team accelerating review of its team name, will report back by end of July
EDMONTON -- Edmonton's Canadian Football League club say it's accelerating its review of its team name and will report back by the end of July.
In a statement, the team says "we acknowledge and appreciate the feedback and input regarding our name" and that it takes the naming issue seriously.
"We will be seeking further input from the Inuit, our partners and other stakeholders to inform our decisions moving forward. We’ll continue to listen carefully and with an open mind. We intend to complete our review as quickly as possible and will provide an update on these discussions by the end of this month."
The team's full statement can be read here.
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.
A major sponsor of Edmonton's Canadian Football League team has said 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.
OTHER SPONSORS RESPOND
Last week, 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 did not receive further reply.
The Brick, Molson Coors, Discount Car and Truck Rental, James H. Brown and Associates, Save on Foods, Servus Credit Union, Telus and Tim Hortons all did not respond to media requests.
Tim Hortons later told the Canadian Press that it has “been in contact with the team, but they can best speak to their review process and engagement with Inuit communities.”
It did not respond to questions about whether it intends to continue its partnership.
Also later, a spokesperson for Jiffy Lube told CP the company supports the team's engagement efforts.
"We look forward to hearing feedback from their ongoing discussions," wrote Kelly McClung, vice-president of marketing and operations for Lube-X and Jiffy Lube operator in Canada.
Maple Leaf Foods is in the final year of a three-year partnership with the team.
“Many important conversations are occurring right now around race and ethnicity in Canada and within our own company,” said Janet Riley, vice-president of communications and public affairs, in an emailed statement to CP.
“Maple Leaf Foods is deeply committed to diversity and inclusion, and recognizes the need for language, behaviours and actions to be racially and ethnically sensitive and appropriate.”
The company is encouraged by the news of continued dialogue between the team and the Inuit community, she said, and looks forward to learning the outcome and next steps.
“The decision the team reaches will be considered as we evaluate our next partnership agreement with the team.”
A Skip The Dishes spokesperson declined to comment to CP, referring all questions to the team.
Coca-Cola Canada Bottling Ltd., which has a product partnership with the team, told CP it has spoken with team management and shared its concerns about the name
“We have asked them to strive for consensus about their name in their community engagement activities with Inuit communities as soon as possible,” spokeswoman Kathy Murphy wrote in an email.
CTV News also reached out to the CFL for comment but didn't 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