June 20, 2014 4:50 pm
Updated: June 20, 2014 8:59 pm

Poll: Could Redskins ruling pressure Edmonton Eskimos to change name?


Watch above: As the fight over the Washington Redskins logo heats up, some are asking questions about the Edmonton Eskimos’ name. Fletcher Kent reports.

EDMONTON — The cancellation of the Washington Redskins’ patent on its team name has some calling for the Edmonton Eskimos to consider a name change.

The U.S. Patent Office ruled Wednesday the Redskins name is “disparaging of Native Americans” and cancelled the team’s federal trademarks.

The ruling came after a year-long campaign to change the name.

The decision prompted some social media users to call on the Eskimos to drop their name, which has been in use since 1897.

Others argue no change is necessary:

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The Edmonton Eskimos say they haven’t heard from fans or any other parties calling on the organization to change its name.

“From time to time it bounces up on the social media sites, but very rarely,” says Allan Watt, vice president of Eskimos communications and marketing.

“We don’t see a groundswell of response to our name one way or the other.”

The organization believes the difference between its team name and that of Washington’s NFL team is largely the logo, which is of a Native American.

“We use two letters: ‘E’ and ‘E’ beside each other. There are no images with our team name,” explains Watt.

There is a difference between the section of the U.S. Trademarks Act used in the Redskins case and a similar section in the Canadian Act.

“It’s a little different wording in Canada,” says lawyer and trademark agent Rhiannon Adams.

“The Act says that you can’t have the trademark for something that’s either obscene or scandalous or immoral.”

“Whether it applies to any group or any trademark is sort of for court to decide,” Adams explains.

She says someone wanting a trademark to be cancelled in Canada would have to prove the trademark was prohibited at the time it was registered.

“That was what they discussed in the States as well. So, at the time that it was registered, was that mark…in Canada, it would be obscene or scandalous or immoral.”

The current Edmonton CFL franchise was founded in 1949, although other teams named the Edmonton Eskimaux or Eskimos existed from 1895 to 1923 and 1929 to 1939.

“It was more about where is Edmonton’s football team located, and what would be a name that might be reflective of where they play more than any group or community that might be around the team,” says Watt.

“I’m Inuit and people call me Eskimo,” says Tony Totan, an artist who was born in Iqaluit, “but I’m not really an Eskimo, I’m Inuit.”

However, he doesn’t think there’s anything wrong with the name Edmonton Eskimos.

“I got nothing against the name,” he says. “I like it.”



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