The CFL team formerly known as the Edmonton Eskimos has seen a “very significant” spike in sales of clothing and other items bearing the now-defunct name, says the team’s chief executive.
“It’s, at this point, a collector’s item to many,” said Chris Presson, CEO of the team, which will go by the interim name Edmonton Football Team or EE Football Team as it works to decide on a permanent new name.
The organization announced Tuesday that its board of directors decided to drop the word “Eskimo” from the name. The decision came after mounting pressure from sponsors and fans to drop the moniker seen by some critics as an outdated and derogatory term for Inuit, and a similar move from the National Football League’s Washington team to retire its name and logo.
The Edmonton team’s online shop, which sells clothing and novelty items bearing the “Eskimos” name, warned of “a high volume of orders” on Wednesday.
While that warning has been in place for a number of weeks, the team confirmed sales picked up significantly following Tuesday’s name-change announcement.
Buyers are “looking at it as a former iconic Canadian name and iconic Canadian business, and they want what they can get their hands on to remember that by,” said Presson.
The Edmonton team plans to continue to sell the products until its inventory runs out.
The team likely has a “substantial” amount of inventory right now, he said, due to COVID-19 postponing the Canadian Football League’s 2020 season.
It would compound the organization’s fiscal problems to write off all that inventory as a loss, he said.
“We’ve al been hit hard financially by COVID,” he said, adding the team hasn’t played a single game this year and, if the season starts, likely won’t have any home games at all.
“So we have no revenue coming in and we only had expense coming out,” he explained, adding “our intent is to — within reason — continue to sell it, try to move as much of it as we can, so we don’t take a total loss on what we’ve already made a major investment in.”
The team has yet to decide on a new name and that process, including producing merchandise bearing it, will likely “take much closer to a year than several months,” he said.
They hope to retain the green-and-gold colour scheme and double-E logo, he noted, which means the new and old gear should have some similarities.
The team will have to work with its licensees to create new products once it has decided on a name. Typically, licensing agreements require the team to notify partners of a change like this at least a year in advance, said Presson, adding the team is holding a licensing call today to deal with some of these issues.
It will also have to go through the process to trademark and register the new name, which will take some time.
Presson isn’t worried about a possible lack of sales if the team runs out of current inventory before the new memorabilia hits the shelves.
“I think it’s more important that we get what we’re going to do in the future right,” he said, rather than rush to avoid a sales gap.
“I would rather not have anything to sell than put out a product that we’re not pleased with, or a name that we’re not pleased with, or rush something to market where we haven’t done our due diligence” in gathering input from fans and partners.
It’s important both groups stick with the team as it goes through a rebrand during this financial crisis, he said.
The old gear bearing the old name won’t be banned from games when they resume.
“We’re not going to stop what people’s freedoms are and what they want to do and what they can do.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 22, 2020.
Aleksandra Sagan, The Canadian Press