Winnipeg mayor raises name of CFL Eskimos with Edmonton counterpart

Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman says he has told his Edmonton counterpart the Edmonton Eskimos could have a more inclusive name.

Brian Bowman says Edmonton CFL club has opportunity to come up with more inclusive name

Edmonton Eskimos quarterback Mike Reilly throws a pass in an Oct. 9 CFL game against the Montreal Alouettes. Winnipeg's mayor says the club should consider a more inclusive name. (Graham Hughes/Canadian Press)

Winnipeg's mayor says he's spoken to his Edmonton counterpart about his city's Canadian Football League team —​ but not to make the customary playoff bet.

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers (12-6) host the Edmonton Eskimos (12-6) in the CFL's western semifinal playoff game Sunday at Investors Group Field.

Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman said while he has yet to speak to Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson about the game, he has made his feelings known about the club's name, an antiquated term for the Inuit people of Canada's North.

"I think there's an opportunity to have a more inclusive name. That's obviously a decision for the team and I will ultimately respect that," said Bowman, a Mé​tis privacy lawyer who has made reconciliation with Canada's Indigenous Peoples a political priority for city hall.

Calls to change the Edmonton Eskimos' name have been made several times in recent years, along with similar petitions to the NFL's Washington Redskins, Major League Baseball's Cleveland Indians and Atlanta Braves and the NHL's Chicago Blackhawks.

Canada's national Inuit leader thanked Bowman for his support on a name change.

"Edmonton's CFL team can be a leader in Canada's movement towards reconciliation by addressing this outstanding concern, and I look forward to further conversations with the Edmonton team leadership, the Edmonton mayor, and all other stakeholders in bringing positive resolution to this issue," said Natan Obed, president of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami.

"It is my hope that the team will respect the wishes of Inuit and replace its moniker with a team name that is not widely considered an ethnic slur, and does not use an Indigenous ethnicity as its base. As concerns with the team name has nothing to do with rivalries or gamesmanship, I wish all CFL teams luck in their upcoming playoff games."

Bowman, who is Winnipeg's first Indigenous mayor, said he has not had time to make a bet with Iveson on the outcome of the game. 

About the Author

Bartley Kives

Reporter, CBC Manitoba

Reporter Bartley Kives joined CBC Manitoba in 2016. Prior to that, he spent three years at the Winnipeg Sun and 18 at the Winnipeg Free Press, writing about politics, music, food and outdoor recreation. He's the author of the Canadian bestseller A Daytripper's Guide to Manitoba: Exploring Canada's Undiscovered Province and co-author of both Stuck in the Middle: Dissenting Views of Winnipeg and Stuck In The Middle 2: Defining Views of Manitoba. His work has also appeared in publications such as the Guardian and Explore magazine.

With a file from Donna Lee in Iqaluit