This week, one of Canada’s most notable television personalities, Don Cherry, was removed from his position on Hockey Night in Canada.
The firing came after Cherry went on a rant Saturday night about “you people” in Canada not buying poppies.
Who is Don Cherry?
The 85-year-old is a longtime hockey broadcaster in Canada, known for the Coach’s Corner segment with Ron MacLean on Hockey Night in Canada.
Cherry coached the Boston Bruins in the 1970s, going on to coach the Colorado Rockies. When the Rockies did not qualify for the 1980 Stanley Cup playoffs, Cherry was hired by CBC as a studio analyst, later becoming a full-time commentator in 1981.
Coach’s Corner was developed due to Cherry’s lively and passionate commentating style.
The now ex-broadcaster has made several controversial statements in his career. Just last year, Cherry faced significant backlash for denying climate change, saying people who do are “cuckaloos.” Back in 2003, Cherry got into a debate with MacLean about Canada not joining the Iraq war, apologizing to the U.S. on behalf of Canadians, which resulted in significant criticism from viewers.
He also faced backlash in 2013 for saying that female reporters shouldn’t be allowed in NHL dressing rooms.
"I remember the first time it happened to me," Cherry said. "Guys are walking around naked and I hear this woman's voice. I turn around and she's asking me about the power play. I say, 'Let's go outside.' She said, 'I'm not embarrassed.' I said, 'I am.'"
What happened on Saturday night?
On a Coach’s Corner segment on Saturday, Cherry made a controversial statement about buying poppies for Remembrance Day.
"You people...you love our way of life, you love our milk and honey, at least you can pay a couple bucks for a poppy or something like that," Cherry said. "These guys paid for your way of life that you enjoy in Canada, these guys paid the biggest price."
Co-host MacLean was quickly criticized, as well, for not denouncing Cherry’s comments when they were said on the segment.
On Monday, Sportsnet released a statement confirming that Cherry will no longer be working with the broadcaster, as a result of his on-air comments.
MacLean released a statement on the same day, apologizing for the broadcast on Saturday and condemning Cherry’s “hurtful and prejudiced” comments.
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
I have worked with Don for 30 years, and we both love hockey. But last night, I know we failed you. I see hockey as part of what unites us. I have the honour of travelling across our country to celebrate Canada's game, and our diversity is one of our country's greatest strengths.— Ron MacLean (@RonMacLeanHTH) November 10, 2019
How has Don Cherry responded?
Cherry has not apologized for his Coach’s Corner rant, instead he stood by his comments.
"I know what I said and I meant it. Still do. Everybody in Canada should wear a poppy to honour our fallen soldiers," Cherry told The Canadian Press.
"I did not say minorities, I did not say immigrants. If you watch Coach's Corner, I did not say that. I said 'everybody.' And I said 'you people’...Irish, Scotch, anybody that's newcomers to Canada, and they should wear a poppy to honour our dead from the past, whether they're Scotch or Irish or English, or where they come from."
The now ex-broadcaster also appeared on Fox News to clarify what he meant by his Saturday comments.
“If I had been smart and protected myself — I should’ve said everybody should be wearing a poppy...it’s the two words, ‘you people,’ as you know people are very sensitive like that. They got me,” Cherry told Tucker Carlson in the interview.
He also explained to CityNews’ Adrian Ghobrial that by “you people” he really meant “everybody.”
“I said the wrong thing...everybody, that’s what a meant,” Cherry said. “It was the next day that they talked about it and the whole deal. So, that’s the way people want to take it, there’s nothing I can do about it.”
Cherry also said he is “disappointed” MacLean’s apology after Saturday night’s broadcast.
"The only thing I can say about that is I’m disappointed, and I think anybody who knew Ron was disappointed, and that’s all I’ll say about that,” he told radio host Barb DiGiulio.
People across the country have been actively discussing Cherry’s firing and the reaction has been mixed.
Don Cherry should have been fired
Many have condemned his comments and supporting Rogers’ decision to dismiss him from his Sportsnet position, some stating that he has expressed “racist” and intolerant views for years and should not be on television.
Don Cherry’s legacy to me is decades of xenophobia, racism, misogyny, and closing off hockey to anyone who didn’t look/think like him. I’ll never forget him effectively killing my dream of being in sports media by going off about female reporters. So good riddance you old hag— liz (@yanoforsure) November 11, 2019
The most disappointing aspect of the Don Cherry story is how it took so long to remove him from HNIC, we have known for years that he is an intolerant xenophobe, why we tolerated his ignorance for so long feels like a failure to me. This was long overdue, shame on us. #cdnpoli— Neil Before Zod™ (@WaytowichNeil) November 14, 2019
Don Cherry shouldn’t have been fired
On Wednesday, a small group of Cherry supporters stood outside the Rogers building in Toronto to protest his firing.
This started a bit earlier, gives you an idea of the crowd.— Lucas Meyer (@meyer_lucas) November 13, 2019
I want to stress: the first few people we spoke to were genuine Don Cherry fans. But it wasn’t long until I heard:
And an “Epstein didn’t kill himself. pic.twitter.com/tb8O0LUrUr
A group of about 25-30 people rally at Sportsnet in support of Don Cherry after he was fired this week for his comments on Saturday night. pic.twitter.com/ppfzVEb0kY— NEWSTALK1010 (@NEWSTALK1010) November 13, 2019
All while hashtags like #ISupportDonCherry continue to spread through social media, agreeing with Cherry’s sentiment that everyone should wear a poppy to to support soldiers and veterans.
@CoachsCornerDC has been a fierce supporter of 🇨🇦 and our troops. He may not be politically correct, but he speaks what he feels. No way he deserves the current “storm” of indignity he is receiving. There was no hate, no racism in what he said. Free speech. #IsupportDonCherry 🇨🇦— ken (@shep107) November 11, 2019
Don Cherry ‘was a bully on TV’ and ‘almost gave permission’ to young hockey players to behave the same way
Also on Wednesday, The Social correspondent Jessica Allen received significant criticism for her comments during a discussion on Cherry’s firing, saying that the ex-Coach’s Corner host is the representative of “that type” of person who “worship at the altar of hockey.”
“I don’t worship at the altar of hockey...and maybe it’s because of where I grew up..and going to a couple different universities there’s a certain type of person in my mind, in my experience, who does and they all tended to be white boys who weren’t - let’s say very nice,” Allen said on the show.
“They were not generally thoughtful, they were often bullies, their parents were able to afford to spend $5,000 a year on minor hockey...you could do other things besides spending your time in an arena, you could learn about the world.”
My jaw dropped when I heard what Jessica Allen had to say about hockey players. I have 2 sons who grew up being “white hockey players” and what she said was worse than what Don Cherry said. Poor form, Jessica. I won’t be watching The Social again. Ever.— Shauna Kenworthy (@s_kenworthy) November 13, 2019