Hockey Night in Canada, a staple program in the country with an illustrious history dating back to the age of radio, has fired its longest-tenured analyst.
Don Cherry had been a host on the program since 1982 when the Coaches Corner segment was created due to Cherry’s tendency to openly cheer for one of the teams that were being broadcasted. Throughout his tenure as a broadcaster, he was known for his eccentric suits, his support of many charitable organizations and his strong political beliefs that occasionally resulted in controversy.
On November 9, during his usual segment with co-host Ron Maclean, Cherry began to speak about Remembrance Day and wearing a Poppy, which is seen as a sign of respect toward Canada’s veterans. This rant would seal his fate with Hockey Night’s parent company Sportsnet. “You people…that come here, whatever it is, love our way of life, love our milk and honey. At least you could pay a couple of bucks for poppies or something like that.” It was understood by most that Cherry was referring to immigrants.
Don Cherry’s rant on immigrants:
“You people… love our way of life, love our milk and honey. At least you could pay a couple of bucks for poppies or something like that. These guys paid for your way of life that you enjoy in Canada.”
Ron MacLean nodded and gave a thumbs up. pic.twitter.com/OXnIwV1n9T
— Rosa Hwang (@journorosa) November 10, 2019
Immediately following the clip being posted to Sportsnet’s website, the company rushed to take it down as well as issue a statement.
Statement from Sportsnet: pic.twitter.com/QZ76r9Y7sb
— Sportsnet PR (@SportsnetPR) November 10, 2019
Cherry’s longtime co-host Ron Maclean issued his own statement.
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
Two days later, ironically, on the day he was attempting to raise support for, it was announced that Cherry would be stepping down immediately.
Statement from Sportsnet: pic.twitter.com/ah3twdx9po
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) November 11, 2019
In his announcement, Sportsnet’s President Bart Yabsley cited the anti-immigrant remarks and stated that they were not reflective of the company He ended his remarks by thanking Cherry for “his contributions to hockey and sports broadcasting in Canada.” With Sportsnet’s tagline proudly stating “United by Sport” it is logical they would attempt to internally remove any controversial figures.
As soon as the announcement reached the Twittersphere, Cherry’s opposition and support were quick to voice their opinions.
Idiot Canadians are calling for this lovely gentleman to be fired for this. AND his life time friend sat nodding next to him just apologised.
— Katie Hopkins (@KTHopkins) November 11, 2019
The sympathy towards Cherry contributed to the creation of the #IStandWIthDonCherry hashtag.
Alternative reactions suggested channeling this anger towards sympathy for the victims.
— Rev. Michael Coren (@michaelcoren) November 12, 2019
The reason why some people are so so upset about Don Cherry is not so much because they love his commentary or him or even that they agree w him so very much.
It's because they fear that this signals the end of something for them, that they're now on shakier ground.
— Jesse Brown (@JesseBrown) November 11, 2019
With such a familiar figure to so many Canadians being heavily scrutinized, it opened up room to shift the conversation into another Left vs Right political debate.
If nothing else, Don Cherry has allowed a number of people to further reveal themselves. pic.twitter.com/qk54kDYxqh
— Alheli Picazo (@a_picazo) November 11, 2019
Some went as far as to compare it to the miscounduct by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, which came to public attention before the most recent federal election, criticizing media’s unequal reactions to the blatant racial insensitivity.
Canadian sports commentator Don Cherry: Hey immigrants, be thankful to the countries that take you in and give you things
Cherry's employer: You're fired!
Justin Trudeau: Wears racist blackface multiple times … still has his job https://t.co/3qVvoZbtn3
— Ryan Saavedra (@RealSaavedra) November 11, 2019
Conversely, there was support for Trudeau to follow suit and resign.
Now that Don Cherry has stepped aside, it's time for Justin Trudeau to do the right thing.
— Stephen Taylor (@stephen_taylor) November 11, 2019
Hey, Don Cherry @CoachsCornerDC. We heard that you were fired. It’s not good!
Come to Russia, we need an analyst for Dynamo TV who could talk whatever he thinks. We love old soldiers. And we will make a nice suit!
— HC Dynamo Moscow (@dynamo_ru) November 12, 2019
Continuing to miss the cause of the controversy, Don continued his support for the troops without any acknowledgment of his xenophobic rhetoric.
#DonCherry comments on being fired: “I know what I said and I meant it. Everybody in Canada should wear a poppy to honour our fallen soldiers. To keep my job, I cannot be turned into a tamed robot"https://t.co/EUQDjPS4Sg
— ET Canada (@ETCanada) November 11, 2019
Don Cherry has a right to say what he wants.
You have a right to agree or disagree.
Sportsnet has a right to not want him on their broadcast.
You have a right to watch or not watch.
Amazing this freedom we have.#LestWeForget
— Joanne Wilder (@joannewilder) November 11, 2019