After a lengthy lobbying and evaluation process, McGill University has finally decided to drop the name "Redmen" from its male sports teams. This decision comes after intense scrutiny and protests surrounding the name by Indigenous staff and students saying that the name is racist and discriminatory. The student union also voted overwhelmingly against an increase to the athletics fee in order to pressure the university to change the name.
Suzanne Fortier, President and Vice-Chancellor of McGill University said in a statement this morning that "The University’s principles and values— academic freedom, integrity, responsibility, equity and inclusiveness—are steadfast. They define who we are as a community. They must, therefore, ground my decision about whether to change the Redmen name."
The president also goes on to say she "learned about the true depths of the pain caused by the Redmen name" after listening to the lived experiences of students and the community. "All these feelings come from lived experiences. These feelings are strong, valid and real."
TL;DR McGill University has decided to drop the controversial "Redmen" team name after intense scrutiny from the Indigenous community of Montreal. The student union also pressured the university to change the name after voting against an increase to the athletics fee. Reactions around social media are overwhelmingly positive and praise the efforts of students and the community.
The "Redmen" name dates back to the 1920s which, according to the University, stemmed from the colours of their jerseys.
However, with the women's team once named the "Squaws" and with jerseys prominently featuring Indigenous motifs like headdresses and feathers, critics were skeptical of the University's official position.
In 2017, a campaign began to change the name of McGill's men's team. Tomas Jirousek of the McGill men's rowing team and member of the Kainai First Nation in Alberta mobilized students and community members against the "Redmen" name. A petition late last year gained over 10,000 signatures and an official protest was staged on campus.
Social media has been incredibly supportive and vocal about the name change, with many people praising McGill University for finally joining the modern world. As per Suzanne Fortier, "the Redmen name is not one that our community would choose today, and it is not one that McGill should carry forward into our third century."
Effective today, McGill's men's sports teams will no longer be named the "Redmen". There hasn't yet been an official decision on what the new name will be, but let's hope the new name will avoid any controversial connotations.
Some people online are now pointing to other sports teams around the world to change their offensive names.
Some of the worst offenders being the Cleveland Indians baseball team and the Washington Redskins and Edmonton Eskimos football teams.
This should not be seen as a case of people calling out the community for being "overly sensitive".
That line of thinking erases centuries of negative and painful connotations for Indigenous communities that have historically suffered and been ignored. If changing a team name is what it takes to bring awareness to this, I'm all for it.
The McGill community will consult with athletes, students, Indigenous peoples, and the broader McGill community to decide on a new team name. The women's team name the "Martlets" will remain as such.
Finally, some positive news for a long-awaited community need. McGill University is better today and better for the future after this decision.