McGill University has dropped the name Redmen from its varsity sports teams after receiving complaints that the name is a racial slur.
Principal Suzanne Fortier said in a statement Friday that the name had caused pain and alienation for indigenous students at the Canadian university. The change took effect immediately.
“Today, ‘redmen’ is widely acknowledged as an offensive term for Indigenous peoples, as evidenced by major English dictionaries,” Fortier said.
In recent years, American sports teams at amateur, college and professional levels have faced similar criticisms.
Last year, the Cleveland Indians baseball team removed Chief Wahoo as its logo. Stanford, North Dakota, St. John’s (also once the Redmen) and Dartmouth are also among the colleges and universities that have dropped Native American nicknames or symbols for their teams.
However, longstanding pressure to change the name of the Washington Redskins NFL team has so far been unsuccessful.
McGill’s decision comes after an internal report revealed deep divisions between students and alumni over the nearly century-old name.
Even though the Redmen name was not initially adopted as a reference to indigenous people, the association was made in the 1950s when men’s and women’s teams came to be nicknamed the “Indians” and “Squaws.” Some teams later adopted a logo with an indigenous man wearing a headdress.
The student who led the fight against the name told The Canadian Press he was “ecstatic” at the news.
“I had expected the name change,” Tomas Jirousek said in an interview from Prague. “I think if the principal had been actually listening to indigenous community members and students, I think it was the only possible option after, as she said in her email, ‘the depth of pain’ we feel as indigenous students at the Redmen name.”
Meanwhile, a group of alumni who opposed the name change said they would never again donate to McGill and would discourage their children from applying to the school.