The long-time Hockey Night in Canada commentator with a knack for garish getups and controversial views was fired Monday over a remark he made about immigrants during a weekend broadcast.
Cherry, 85, suggested in his “Coach’s Corner” segment Saturday night that immigrants in and around Toronto do not wear the poppy, a Remembrance Day symbol that is sold to raise funds for Canada’s military veterans and their families.
“You people, you come here, you love our way of life, you love our milk and honey — at least you could pay a couple of bucks for poppies or something like that,” Cherry said. “These guys pay for your way of life that you enjoy in Canada. These guys paid the biggest price.”
Cherry’s comment drew intense criticism from viewers, the National Hockey League and even his “Coach’s Corner” sidekick, Ron MacLean, who the next day expressed regret for not challenging Cherry’s comment.
I want to sincerely apologize to our viewers and Canadians. During last night’s broadcast, Don made comments that were hurtful and prejudiced and I wish I had handled myself differently. It was a divisive moment and I am truly upset with myself for allowing it. (1/2)
— Ron MacLean (@RonMacLeanHTH) November 10, 2019
Statement from the National Hockey League regarding Don Cherry’s comments Saturday night: pic.twitter.com/zt57sLy5Fa
— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) November 10, 2019
So many complained to the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council that it was forced to post a notice advising that its “technical processing abilities” had been exceeded and it could not accept any additional complaints about Cherry.
Bart Yabsley, president of Hockey Night in Canada broadcaster Sportsnet, condemned Cherry’s remark as “discriminatory” and “offensive” and said they were not representative of the company’s values “and what we stand for as a network.”
Yabsley followed this statement Monday with news that Sportsnet was letting Cherry go, effective immediately.
“Sports brings people together — it unites us, not divides us,” Yabsley said.
Statement from Sportsnet: pic.twitter.com/LRKrww0AQ1
— Sportsnet PR (@SportsnetPR) November 11, 2019
The broadcaster thanked Cherry for his contributions to hockey, saying he is “synonymous with hockey and has played an integral role in growing the game over the past 40 years.”
Cherry applied his trademark “thumbs up” to his dismissal, telling Toronto Sun columnist Joe Warmington “no problem.”
“I know what I said and I meant it. Everybody in Canada should wear a poppy and honour our fallen soldiers.”
The Poppy Fund is run by the Royal Canadian Legion, an organization founded by veterans of the First World War that remains Canada’s leading voice for veterans’ rights.
While expressing its appreciation for Cherry’s “passionate support” for veterans, the Legion condemned his on-air remark in a Remembrance Day tweet, calling them “hurtful” and “divisive.”
We know many new Canadians understand and welcome the tradition of the red poppy and will continue to educate all citizens about the significance of this powerful symbol.
— The Royal Canadian Legion (@RoyalCdnLegion) November 11, 2019
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