Pressure is mounting on Edmonton’s Canadian Football League franchise to change its name after Washington’s pro football team agreed to do a “thorough review” of its name – widely considered a racial slur – last week.
Under revived scrutiny, the Edmonton team issued a statement explaining why it decided to retain the name, saying there was no consensus on the name among “the Inuit people.”
The team said it “conducted an extensive research and engagement program with Canada’s Inuit community regarding our team name.”
“We announced the findings from that program several months ago which included the fact that there was no consensus among the Inuit people and considerable support for the [team’s] name among Inuit in various parts of northern Canada.
“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 statement angered many on social media and received more than 1,000 replies.
Nunavut NDP-MP Mumilaaq Qaqqaq, who is an Inuk woman from Baker Lake, was among those blasting the team on Twitter.
“The fact that there was NO CONSENSUS means CHANGE THE NAME. I look forward to hearing from you as the member of parliament for 25 of 47 Inuit Nunangat communities,” she said.
“Canada’s Inuit community” – one community? What program? Conducted by who WITH who exactly? The fact that there was NO CONSENSUS means CHANGE THE NAME. I look forward to hearing from you as the member of parliament for 25 of 47 Inuit Nunangat communities
— Mumilaaq Qaqqaq (@MumilaaqQaqqaq) July 3, 2020
“In one of their tweets they said ‘Inuit people’. ‘Inuit’ means people. You’re just saying ‘people-people’,” Qaqqaq told APTN News.
She feels the team should pay compensation for the harm it has done.
“If a CFL team who makes a ton of money off of a derogatory term the Inuit and our ancestors have faced for decades, well then, really where we are in 2020? And what does that mean for or future?” Qaqqaq asked.
Qaqqaq says it’s difficult for Indigenous people to evoke change themselves and getting the team to change its name could help Inuit gain allies to address crises in the north like housing, food insecurity and suicide.
She says allies are important like the late frontman for the popular Canadian band The Tragically Hip who publicly advocated for Indigenous rights.
“When Gord Downie started talking about residential schools that put residential schools on the map. Not just in Canada but elsewhere as well,” Qaqqaq said.
Qaqqaq says the Edmonton football team, players, coaches and management need to better educate themselves on Indigenous history and culture, and the name change is vital for improving the rights and lives of Indigenous people in Canada.
“If people won’t listen to us about this issue how can we expect people to listen to us on bigger items? On items that affect directly choices between life and death for Inuit?”
In the U.S. on Monday, a letter was sent to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodel demanding that Washington be forced to change its name.
Carla Fredericks is a professor of law at Colorado University in Boulder and she was one of the signatories of the letter. She has been advocating for the team to change its name for decades.
“We’ve had a lot of engagement with FedEx, we’ve also had engagements this year with Nike and the Bank of America. But the recent work that we did is really about trying to hold these companies accountable to their stated commitments on racial justice.”
Fredericks says a lot is owed to the Black Lives Matter movement for creating awareness on injustices to people of colour.
Fredericks says now they are awaiting a response from the Washington franchise and a timeline for the renaming process so that the issue can finally be put to rest, “not just for Native people here in the U.S. but for Native people everywhere.”
Carla Fredericks says this is a critical time for the issue of racist names in sports and hopes teams choose not to use racist names.