Edmonton Elks: CFL club announces new name

Edmonton's CFL franchise unveiled its new name Tuesday, and the team says it was the overwhelming fan favourite: the Edmonton Elks.

Team dropped its name last year as pressure mounted on teams to discard racist or stereotypical monikers

Edmonton's CFL team unveils their new name and logo, the Edmonton Elks, at Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton, on Tuesday, June 1, 2021. (Jason Franson/The Canadian Press)

Foam antlers are set to become part of the green and gold fan dress code, as Edmonton's CFL team has adopted a new name: the Edmonton Elks.

The football club officially announced the Elks name during a news conference Tuesday, following a year-long consultation process involving team partners, fans and even some linguistic experts.

Team president and CEO Chris Presson said the club was proud to announce its new name and said he felt confident they had taken the time needed to ensure they "got it right."

"We look forward to the season that is coming at us and for that, we need a name," Presson said.

"With your input, much debate and deliberation, we came to the name that we are proud to present today."

The new helmet features the signature colours and elk antlers. (Jason Franson/The Canadian Press)

He acknowledged that it's been "a long road" to arrive at the team's new name, but "we've taken our time to make sure we got it right and we know we did."

In a statement issued Tuesday, the club said the Elk name was "highly favoured" by fans. 

Team dropped name last year

Edmonton's CFL franchise dropped the name Eskimos last year. It followed a similar decision by the NFL's Washington team as pressure mounts on teams to eliminate racist or stereotypical names.

The controversy surrounding the old name had plagued the franchise for years and sponsors had recently threatened to withdraw support if the team did not change its moniker.

Last July, the board of directors announced that it would drop the name and engage in a "comprehensive engagement process" to find a suitable replacement. 

Tuesday's team announcement began with a two-minute moment of silence for the 215 Indigenous children whose remains were discovered on the grounds of a residential school in Kamloops, B.C.

During the news conference that followed, Presson suggested that the name change was part of a larger shift inside the franchise. 

He said engagement with Indigenous and northern leaders undertaken during the rebrand will continue and he plans to organize cultural training to ensure his staff have a better understanding of Indigenous cultures. 

Presson said he has no doubt that changing the name was the right call. He said he feels honoured to have been a part of the process.

"One hundred percent. We definitely did the right thing," Presson told reporters. "It was needed. It was probably a few years overdue, to be honest. But I'm glad that we're where we are now." 

Fans were asked to weigh in on a short list of seven candidates for the new name. Elk, Evergreens, Evergolds, Eclipse, Elkhounds, Eagles and Elements were all listed as possibilities in an online survey released in February.

In its statement Tuesday, the team said that, after the survey showed that Elk was preferred by fans, they also consulted with players, staff — and language experts at the University of Alberta, who suggested a minor tweak.

Caps with the new team name and logo are shown as Edmonton's CFL team shows their new name and logo, the Edmonton Elks, at Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton, on Tuesday, June 1, 2021. (Jason Franson/The Canadian Press)

"When the team heard from the players and coaches, who overwhelmingly voted for Elk, the choices became much clearer," reads the statement. 

"After lengthy debate, consultation with linguistics experts from the Oxford Dictionary and the U of A's linguistics department, the name 'Elks' was finally chosen, adding the 's' to the original choice 'Elk.'"

The new name, the statement goes on, "reflects the speed, strength and resilience of the Green and Gold and Northern Alberta."

The team, founded in 1949, has been known as the Edmonton Football Team or EE Football Team since dumping the old name. The team's logo continues to feature two Es.