The Edmonton Eskimos have had a major sponsor — Belairdirect — deliver an ultimatum: change your name or we’re gone.
Last Friday the Esks released a statement which said the franchise would not be changing their name in the immediate future, due to the consultation process they undertook last year with Inuit communities. However, the circumstances have shifted quickly.
“At Belairdirect one of our core values is respect, which is founded on seeing diversity as a strength, being inclusive and collaborative,” reads a statement from the company, obtained by CTV Edmonton reporter Matthew Black.
“In order for us to move forward and continue on with our partnership with the Edmonton Eskimos, we will need to see concrete action in the near future including a name change. We have shared our position with the team.”
Black contacted 13 premier partners currently listed on the team’s website. Four of them responded, including Belairdirect. A spokesman for TFB & Associates, the Canadian brand owns lozenge manufacturer Fisherman’s Friend, said the issue is “something we have been following closely.”
“We support Edmonton’s CFL team’s re-engagement in discussions with the Inuit communities and are looking forward to the timely and respectful progression of those conversations along with a positive outcome for all.”
The Eskimos have been under the microscope since the National Football League’s Washington Redskins announced the team will reassess its name. That followed withdrawals of prominent sponsors, including Nike removing all team apparel from its websites and stores. Also, FedEx, the title sponsor of Washington’s home field, requested a name change.
“In light of recent events around our country and feedback from our community, the Washington Redskins are announcing the team will undergo a thorough review of the team’s name. This review formalizes the initial discussions the team has been having with the league in recent weeks,” Washington owner Dan Snyder said in a statement.
“This process allows the team to take into account not only the proud tradition and history of the franchise but also input from our alumni, the organization, sponsors, the National Football League and the local community it is proud to represent on and off the field.”
Edmonton has long been under scrutiny for its team name, which is considered by many Inuit leaders to be offensive and a marker of colonialism. Most recently the issue was raised when Nunavut member of parliament Mumilaaq Qaqqaq called for the Esks to change their team name.