The CFL released a statement on Sunday in support of those in our society who face racial discrimination.
It’s become common for institutions to make similar declarations following the senseless death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man who was killed in Minneapolis by a white police officer named Derek Chauvin.
All nine CFL teams contributed similar statements with players from across the league offering their thoughts, stories, and opinions on social media.
The statements given by the league and eight of its member clubs all included the word “racism.” They acknowledged the ongoing racial inequalities that exist in our society and sought to support those who are victims of discrimination.
There was one team whose statement did not include the word “racism” and I think we all know why it was absent.
The Edmonton Eskimos posted the following graphic on Sunday afternoon from its twitter account that is just shy of 140,000 followers.
The tweet had 421 replies as of 10:00 PM ET on Sunday, the majority of which pointed out the irony of the statement and/or demanded the team change its name. A sampling of the most popular replies are embedded below, though a full list of the responses can be found here.
change the goddamned name
— Simon (@bauxoffice) May 31, 2020
so when does your racist team name change?
— Ian Capstick (@iancapstick) May 31, 2020
Y'all shut down for the year anyway. Plenty of time to come up with a new name, logo and identity. Serious. Be part of the solution.
— Edwin (@edwinmundt) May 31, 2020
Change your name then
— small fish (@_trevor_jw) May 31, 2020
Change the name of this team.
— Just call me Eva (@So_damntired) May 31, 2020
CHANGE YOUR NAME.
— DJMENSAONTHE1s&2s (@mensathedj) May 31, 2020
— Beisan Zubi (@beisan) May 31, 2020
Call it racism and change your team name!!
— deanna e. s. (@deannaees) May 31, 2020
It’s hard to offer support to those who face racial discrimination when the name of your organization is a slur. Twitter is not a platform that allows hypocrisy to go unchecked — if you say one thing and do another, you’re going to get backlash.
Edmonton announced in February that the club would be keeping its name after the team’s Northern Community Engagement Program spent time discussing the issue with Inuit communities.
“The research program provided the club with many insights. A key learning for us was the desire of northern communities to increase the club’s engagement with them,” said Janice Agrios, the chair of Edmonton’s board of directors.
“We are the CFL’s most northern team and we want to continue to build our relationship with the Inuit community. This is a very important initiative for us.”
Edmonton deserves credit for visiting northern communities, but that hardly means they’re entitled to the moral high ground regarding racism.
Natan Obed, the president of the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, wrote an op-ed for the Globe and Mail in 2015 denouncing Edmonton’s name. He represents 60,000 Inuit people and felt strongly that the team’s name should be changed.
You can’t release a statement claiming to “stand with those who are outraged” while ignoring criticism from Inuit leaders regarding a name many find offensive and outdated.
Edmonton is consistently viewed as one of the CFL’s model franchises and its moniker dates back well over a century. It’s easy to see why the team is reluctant to change its name, which would close a long, storied chapter of club history.
The choice to continue celebrating a racial slur, however, means the team will continue to face backlash when it clumsily attempts to espouse messages of inclusion, diversity or anti-racism.