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November 20, 2017
November 10, 2017

Edmonton’s football team name has to change

Will we listen?

Written by Jeff Samsonow

We have a CFL football team with a name that is not appreciated by many in Canada’s Inuit communities. And, make no mistake, Edmonton has Canada’s largest population of Inuit outside of the north so this is a local issue on all accounts.

The mayors of Canada’s two cities with the largest populations of Indigenous peoples are now asking that the team name be changed to something more inclusive. Those municipal leaders just happen to be the first Indigenous mayor of Winnipeg and Edmonton’s own mayor

While there are many who argue the name isn’t that racist, it is derogatory to many people and the longer the team keeps the name without discussion, the longer it ignores those voices. And Inuit people are asking Edmontonians to help pressure the team to change the name, since the team and CFL don’t appear willing to do the right thing. This is a call you can answer.

These are far from the first calls to scrap the name or at least have the discussion. Earlier this year Inuk singer Tanya Tagaq renewed her calls to change the name. The president of the Canada’s national Inuit organization has also been asking for the change for years. Edmonton’s own Inuit community organization has called the name “offensive and inaccurate“. The team, so far, has refused to have a public discussion about the name, let alone listen to the Inuit and Indigenous voices asking for change.

Obviously, these are two different perspectives.

That quote is from the team president and CEO.

If we want to talk about perspectives on the issue, let’s be clear. One perspective is Inuit and Indigenous people asking the team to stop using a name they find derogatory and disrespectful and – in my words – casual racism. This is also a call to action from the chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

The other perspective would be ignoring those requests, likely due to white fragility or white supremacy. It’s fragility to be worried that supporting the team, or even liking the name, makes you a racist. It doesn’t. It’s only racist to continue to support a system that ignores minority and vulnerable voices. 

And it’s white supremacy to ask Inuit and Indigenous peoples to jump through hoops before you’ll consider a name change. That’s things like needing to see every Inuk agree the name has to change, or a “majority” of them, or some other arbitrary item. Our society still isn’t set up to allow many people’s voices to be heard and you’re only maintaining that racist structure by ignoring people until they meet criteria you’ll likely keep changing on them anyway.

The easiest way to put this is, you wouldn’t call an Inuk-Edmontonian an “eskimo” to their face, so it shouldn’t be the name of our football team. See, the answer is easy when you scrub away all the white privilege and fragility. 

This is a bad look for a city of reconciliation. And if you agree, make sure your city councillor and the CFL team hear from you.

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If you’re a Settler like me, you may find the discussion on this topic in the Media Indigena podcast informative. This is a fantastic show in general, and I hope the conversation about Edmonton’s football team makes it plain how simple this decision should be if we’re respecting our Indigenous neighbours.
(Starts at 36:30 in the episode embedded below.)

“It’s the same kind of stuff you hear around the Redskins. People defending them…”

On the show, Lakota activist and communicator Taté Walker recommended downloading a Bingo card to show how unoriginal Edmontonians are when it comes to arguments being made about the football team name (among other issues that come up on the show). Great idea, Taté!

If you find anything you have to say about the Edmonton football team on this card, that should tell you how open you might actually be to hearing the request for change.


Editor’s Note: This article contains elements from previous Headlines posts of August 14, August 21 and August 25

This post was updated Tuesday, November 14, 2017

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