Majority of CFL fans oppose Edmonton name change

Photo courtesy: Scott Grant/

A poll by the Angus Reid Institute — no relation to former B.C. centre Angus Reid — found that while the majority of Canadians approve of the Edmonton Football Team’s recent decision to change its name, the majority of CFL fans are in opposition.

The online poll was conducted over two days with a representative sample of 1,519 Canadians who are members of the Angus Reid Forum. It showed that while 57 percent of Canadians approved of the change, 55 percent of CFL fans did not. There was a significant regional disparity as well, with Alberta (58 percent) and Saskatchewan (54 percent) being the only provinces with majority disapproval.

The Eskimos moniker had been controversial for several years, with prominent members of the Inuit community calling for it to be changed due to its nature as an offensive slur or relic of colonial power. The Edmonton Football Team said it found no consensus among the Inuit community through their own research, but refused to reveal their methods and had their process called into question. Angus Reid’s data did not record race and presents no Inuit-specific data, with no respondents coming from the territories.

The name change was overwhelmingly favoured by young people, women, those with a university education and those who voted Liberal or New Democratic Party (NDP). The only demographics in which the majority was opposed to the change were men over the age of 55, those with a high school education or less, and Conservative voters. Coincidentally, those demographics were disproportionately followers of the CFL.

The poll pointed to significant demographic challenges faced by the CFL, with just 5 percent of respondents identifying themselves as die hard fans and 14 percent as casual fans. Those numbers were skewed significantly towards older individuals with just 13 percent of those under 35 identifying as a fan compared to 26 percent in the 65 and over category. Fandom was particularly clustered in low population provinces like Saskatchewan and Manitoba, with marginal interest in Ontario, Quebec and B.C.

The Edmonton name change appeases demographics that the CFL desperately needs to attract, but it remains to be seen if it will move the needle in a positive direction or alienate the league’s core base.

When it comes to a new name, 26 percent of those polled thought Eagles would be the best nickname while those in Alberta preferred the Edmonton Energy. The Edmonton Elks, a name once used by the club before Eskimos, was the second most popular choice among both groups.