(CNN)McGill University will no longer use the name Redmen for its men's varsity sports teams after students argued the term was a racial slur.
McGill University sports teams drop 'Redmen' name amid criticism
Suzanne Fortier, the school's principal and vice-chancellor, announced her decision Friday, saying the name made indigenous students feel alienated.
"They feel disrespected and unconsidered. They feel conflicted over their rightful pride in being Indigenous people, and their pride in being McGill students," Fortier said in a statement. "This tension is even stronger for Indigenous student-athletes."
Fortier noted the university in Montreal had not adopted the name as a reference to North American indigenous peoples but said that perceptions have since then changed.
"McGill did not adopt the Redmen name as a reference to North American Indigenous peoples. However, the name has been associated with Indigenous peoples at different points in our history. Today, 'Redmen' is widely acknowledged as an offensive term for Indigenous peoples, as evidenced by major English dictionaries," the principal said.
"While this derogatory meaning of the word does not reflect the beliefs of generations of McGill athletes who have proudly competed wearing the University's colours, we cannot ignore this contemporary understanding. Intention, however benign, does not negate prejudicial effect."
Fortier said the change is effective immediately and the teams will be be known as only "McGill" for the upcoming athletic season.
The school said the decision does not affect the women's teams, which are called the Martlets. The name is a reference to a mythical bird that cannot land because it has no feet.
The school has used the name Redmen since the late 1920s and it was originally a reference to the red uniforms worn by the sports team, according to the school's website.
The reference to indigenous people began in the 1950s when the school adopted a logo depicting an indigenous man wearing a headdress.
All signage, banners, flags, clothing and other branded items on campus are expected to be removed by the fall semester. However, the Redmen name will remain in the school's sports hall of fame and "on existing items of historical significance" such as trophies and championship photos, the school said.
The school is expected to pick a new name that "everyone can wear, and cheer for, with pride" for the 2020-2021 season, Fortier said.
American sports teams have recently faced similar criticism due to their names and logos.
Last year, the MLB's Cleveland Indians parted ways with their Chief Wahoo logo and removed the Native American caricature this season from the team's jerseys. The team had used the image far less frequently for a few years and adopted a "C" as its main logo.
In 2001, Colgate University in New York state changed the name of their sports teams from the Red Raiders to just "Raiders" to move away from what it said was a racial stereotype. The name was coined as a reference to the maroon color of the football team's jerseys and not to Native Americans, but the school said it could still be seen as offensive.
Native American groups and some politicians, including former President Barack Obama, have pressured the NFL's Washington Redskins to consider a name change but its owner, Daniel Snyder, has insisted the name its not offensive to Native Americans.