No plans to change Eskimos name after N.W.T. consultations

After consulting with Inuit in the Northwest Territories, Edmonton's CFL team has no plans to discard the Eskimos name, says the team's CEO.

CFL team consulted with Inuit residents, politicians and cultural leaders

The storied Edmonton Eskimos franchise has been under increasing pressure to change the team's name. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)

After consulting with Inuit in the Northwest Territories, Edmonton's CFL team has no plans to discard the Eskimos name, says the team's CEO.

"It's premature to talk about scenarios down the road," said Len Rhodes, president and CEO of the team. "Right now, at this point in time, we have no plans to change our name."

The team has further consultation planned in Nunavut, Ottawa and Edmonton.

"But I think there are loads of opportunities in terms of things we can do with the community,  even with our current name," he said.

Responding to continued backlash, Rhodes and team officials travelled to Yellowknife and Inuvik earlier this month to host consultations with local residents, politicians and cultural leaders.
Len Rhodes, president of the Edmonton Eskimos, travelled north earlier this month to host consultations on the football club's name. (Tim Adams/CBC)

He said the team has always used the Eskimos name with the "utmost pride," but wanted to hear directly from people in the North about whether it's considered offensive. 

"We wanted to speak to the people in the northern communities, the Inuit communities specifically, and to have a direct conversation," Rhodes said in an interview Tuesday with CBC Radio's Edmonton AM.

"It was a seen as a sign of respect to have taken the time to go up there and meet them in person."

The name controversy has plagued the team for years and calls for a new team moniker have escalated in advance of the 2018 Grey Cup game in Edmonton.

Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, which represents 60,000 Inuit, considers the name racist, but was not invited to the consultations, said president Natan Obed.

Suzie Napayok, who is with the Yellowknife Inuit Association, would like to see the team lose the moniker saying it gives the wrong impression of the Inuit.

However, Rhodes said the opinions he heard from northerners were split. 

"There are those that say it's irrelevant and there are those that say it's worse than that," he said.

"But there are many people who feel the name is OK and it's actually one that they're proud of being associated with."

The team began surveying season ticket holders about the name earlier this year.

Rhodes declined to share the results of the independent survey, suggesting they might bias future consultations planned in Edmonton, Nunavut and Ottawa.

The team will continue the consultation until at least early next year, Rhodes said.

"It's the first step in a long process. It's the starting point, but certainly not the end point," he said.