Ahead of CFL west semifinal, Winnipeg mayor advises Eskimos to change name

Winnipeg mayor Brian Bowman suggested the Edmonton Eskimos consider a name change ahead of the CFL’s west semifinal. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods)

Gamesmanship or good counsel?

In the lead-up to the CFL’s West semifinal between the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and Edmonton Eskimos this weekend, Winnipeg mayor Brian Bowman indicated that he’s advised municipal counterpart Don Iveson to use his platform to set the process in motion to absolve the “Eskimos” moniker.

“I think there’s an opportunity to have a more inclusive name. That’s ultimately a decision for the team, though, and I will obviously respect that,” Bowman said, according to Joyanne Pursaga of the Edmonton Sun. “I’ve voiced my thoughts on the team name.”

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The timing of Bowman’s comments are consistent with the often-lame attempts from municipal leaders to conjure up intrigue ahead of sporting event. But in this case it’s imperative it’s noted: Bowman, a proud Métis, took on the challenge of bridging the cultural divide in Winnipeg when he became the first elected mayor of aboriginal descent in the city’s history back in 2014.

This isn’t to gain attention; it’s to use the interest this game will receive throughout Western Canada to bring awareness to a team name considered derogatory and offensive to many members of the Inuit community – not unlike the Redskins and Indians of Washington and Cleveland, respectively.

Bowman’s support drew thanks from Natan Obed, leader of the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami.

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. As concerns with the team name has nothing to do with rivalries or gamesmanship, I wish all CFL teams luck in their upcoming playoff games.

The Eskimos responded to Bowman’s suggestion in a statement obtained by the Canadian Press, saying that the football team uses the moniker with “pride and respect.” It also said that it’s actively receiving input and engaging in discussion with fans and community leaders about its name, and welcomed Bowman into that discussion.

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