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Edmonton Eskimos' name insensitive, Bowman says

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Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman says the name of Edmonton’s CFL team should be changed from Eskimos because it is insensitive to Indigenous people.

Just days before the Eskimos visit Winnipeg to take on the Blue Bombers at Investors Group Field (IGF) in the CFL’s West Division semifinal playoff game, Bowman said he has told Edmonton mayor Don Iveson in the past that the team’s name should be dropped.

“I told him there’s an opportunity to have a more inclusive name,” Bowman told reporters on Wednesday.

“That’s ultimately a decision for the team, though, and I will obviously respect that... If you’re asking, I’ve voiced my thoughts on the name of the team. That being said, they’re a great team and a great organization.”

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Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman says the name of Edmonton’s CFL team should be changed from Eskimos because it is insensitive to Indigenous people.

Just days before the Eskimos visit Winnipeg to take on the Blue Bombers at Investors Group Field (IGF) in the CFL’s West Division semifinal playoff game, Bowman said he has told Edmonton mayor Don Iveson in the past that the team’s name should be dropped.

"I told him there’s an opportunity to have a more inclusive name," Bowman told reporters on Wednesday.

"That’s ultimately a decision for the team, though, and I will obviously respect that... If you’re asking, I’ve voiced my thoughts on the name of the team. That being said, they’re a great team and a great organization."

'It's extremely disrespectful and baffling that people continue to use this name'— Prof. Niigaan Sinclair

University of Manitoba native studies Prof. Niigaan Sinclair and the president of Canada’s national Inuit organization, Natan Obed, support Winnipeg’s mayor calling for the team to rebrand itself.

"It’s extremely disrespectful and baffling that people continue to use this name," said Sinclair, who is Indigenous.

"Eskimo" is not a word in the Inuktitut language; it’s an Algonquin term used as an outdated slang put-down referring to the Inuit that translates to "eater of raw meat," said Sinclair, an Anishinaabe and a football fan who plans to watch Sunday’s playoff game.

"It’s a pejorative term that goes back to 19th-century images of Indigenous savagery. If Inuit people don’t want to be referred to in a derogatory manner, it’s very simple — then don’t use the name."

Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, a non-profit which represents Canada’s 60,000 Inuit, has argued since 2015 that the term is offensive and a relic from a time when Inuit people had no control over their lives or what they were called.

WAYNE GLOWACKI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES</p><p>Mayor Brian Bowman </p>

WAYNE GLOWACKI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES

Mayor Brian Bowman

On Wednesday, Obed issued a statement thanking Bowman for supporting the call to change the name of the Alberta capital’s pro-football franchise.

"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," Obed stated.

"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," the Inuit leader said, adding he wished all CFL teams luck in their upcoming playoff games.

In a statement to the Free Press, the Edmonton Eskimos Football Club said: "If the mayor of Winnipeg has an opinion he’d like to share with us, he should do so.

"At this point in time, we are actively engaged in listening to the conversation that people are having around our name. Those conversations are ongoing and we are keenly listening to all input, including from our loyal season seat holders and fans.

"We are always interested in hearing what people think within our community and elsewhere, on this topic or any other topic related to our football club. We use the Edmonton Eskimos name with pride and respect."

The CFL franchise has carried the Eskimos brand since 1949, with the name being linked to other Edmonton sports teams dating to 1910.

Iveson wasn’t available for comment Wednesday, but spokeswoman Cheryl Oxford said the Edmonton mayor believes any decision to change the name is the CFL team’s to make.

Meanwhile, Bowman said he hasn’t yet been able to place the traditional friendly playoff wager between CFL cities with Iveson.

"I hope, obviously, we crush the Edmonton Eskimos and can move on."

Kickoff at IGF is Sunday at 3:30 p.m.

kevin.rollason@freepress.mb.cacarol.sanders@freepress.mb.ca

Read more by Kevin Rollason and Carol Sanders.

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History

Updated on Wednesday, November 8, 2017 at 1:09 PM CST: Tweaks headline

2:22 PM: Adds quote.

3:18 PM: Adds comment from Edmonton.

4:02 PM: Adds further comment.

November 9, 2017 at 7:51 AM: Writethru

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