EDMONTON (CityNews) – Edmonton’s CFL team has been one of many sports organizations under fire for the franchise’s name, with several critics calling for a change.
In the organization’s annual report for the 2019 season – released on Wednesday – Janice Agrios, the chair of the board of directors, said the team is committed to working with Inuit communities to come to a satisfactory decision regarding its name.
“We continue to be proud of the work we have done to engage with Inuit communities,” said Agrios. “Based on the feedback from our research and engagement program with Inuit communities, we invested time and resources to establish a Northern Community Engagement Program to strengthen the ties between the Club and Inuit communities.
“In the last year, players and other Club representatives visited schools in Inuvik and Tuktoyaktuk, participated in the Inuvik Sunrise Festival and took part in school visits and a youth gathering in Norman Wells. The Club also hosted the Youth Service Award winners at a home game. Although these activities have been paused due to COVID-19, we will work with these and other northern communities to resume these programs as soon as it is safe to do so.
“We began our research and engagement program three years ago because we believed that it was of utmost importance to have input from the Inuit regarding our name.”
According to the research done by the organization, a large percentage of Inuit people don’t want to see the team change its name.
“78 per cent of the western Arctic Inuit oppose the team changing the Eskimos name,” said Agrios in the report. “In Nunavut, where we are still working on building our relationships, 55 per cent of Inuit oppose a change to the Eskimos name. In the eastern Arctic, where the results identified little connection to the team, 31 per cent of Inuit oppose a name change.
“For the Inuit who view the Edmonton Eskimos name positively, the dominant theme is pride. The concept that a sports team with national recognition chooses to use the name of a relatively small group of people is seen as a nod of respect and admiration.”
Initial research aside, the franchise says it will continue to seek more input regarding the team name.
“Our perspective that Inuit input is crucial to this process has not changed,” added Agrios. “Outreach and discussions have commenced, and we will provide an update on this matter by the end of July 2020.”
The organization also released financial details for the 2019 season. Its operating revenue decreased by 6.7 per cent from the year before. The team attributed that decline to weather-related issues, as well as a loss of revenue due to the Grey Cup effect.
The team also reported overall gate revenues, merchandise sales and game-day revenues took a hit during the 2019 season, whereas corporate sponsorship saw an increase.
“Off the field, the impact of weather and a challenging schedule had an undeniable impact on revenue. As well, as with all other teams, the Club provided financial support to the Montreal Alouettes while the League looked for a buyer. Despite the challenges of 2019, we were looking forward to a successful 2020 season as the positive impacts of Chris (Presson’s) fresh energy and innovative ideas on our business were already evident.”
With COVID-19 putting a halt to play for the foreseeable future, the financial impact on the team and league will only worsen.
“While we are in uncertain times, what is certain is that the Edmonton Eskimos are resilient. We appreciate the support of our shareholders and fans and most definitely will need it in the coming months. We look forward to returning to play and welcoming fans back to The Brick Field at Commonwealth Stadium as soon as it is safe to do so.”
Highlights for the organization off the field included a donation of $587,500 towards amateur football within the community. The Edmonton Huskies, Edmonton Wildcats, University of Alberta Golden Bears Football, Football Alberta and the Eskimo Alumni Association’s amateur football initiatives all benefitted.
The fans also helped the team raise over 85,000 lbs. of food in the CFL’s annual Tackle Hunger event.