Ottawa RedBlacks owner explains Big Joe mascot name change

The Ottawa RedBlacks have modified the name of their mascot from Big Joe Mufferaw to Big Joe after receiving criticism from the region's Francophone community.

Team makes change after complaints from Francophone community

The Ottawa Redblacks football team tweeted a photo of their new mascot on skates. (@REDBLACKS)

The Ottawa RedBlacks have modified the name of their mascot from Big Joe Mufferaw to Big Joe after receiving criticism from the region's Francophone community.

Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group said they originally named the mascot after a fictional lumberjack character that appeared in children's books by storyteller Bernie Bedore and was made famous in a song by Stompin' Tom Connors.

But the character was inspired by Joseph Montferrand, a real life Outaouais logger and defender of Francophone rights in the 1800s.

Many Francophones took to Twitter on the weekend to vent their frustrations with the choice, saying using Mufferaw instead of Montferrand was disrespectful to the man who inspired the character.

'I guess people felt like it was not a fair tribute,' team owner says

On Tuesday, the team's owner Jeff Hunt was a guest on the Ottawa Morning radio show. He said the RedBlacks received thousands of suggestions for the mascot's name, most of which were different variations of Big Joe Mufferaw.

The team looked into the history of the French Canadian folk hero Joseph Montferrand, and they came upon the books published by Bedore.

"When I found out there was a series of children's books written about it and of course the connection to the Ottawa Valley and the French Canadian heritage to the name, I thought we had a winner in the name," Hunt said. "And we even actually did a business agreement with the Bedore family to republish some books under the name Big Joe Mufferaw, but incorporating our actual mascot into the illustrations."

Hunt said he first realized there might be some controversy when a French reporter asked him if he was worried Francophones would be offended.

"I was surprised at the question ... but what ended up [happening] with the world that we live in today, with Twitter and everything else, the offence started to grow and there was all kinds of chatter on Twitter about it, and it was really gaining momentum," he said.

"I guess people felt like it was not a fair tribute to an actual French Canadian folk hero to use an English version of his name or a mispronunciation of his name. It was not respectful to this legendary figure."

'You cannot talk somebody out of being offended'

Hunt said Francophones make up about 35 per cent of the RedBlacks market.

"It just didn't seem like it was worth the fuss and the potential alienation of that market over the name of a mascot."

And Hunt said they only ever intended to call him Big Joe, anyway.

"I learned a long time ago, you cannot talk somebody out of being offended. If they're offended, they're offended, and we're not in the business of offending people, so it just wasn't worth the fight."

The team said the mascot's name in French will be Grand Jos.


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