Don Cherry fired by Sportsnet for problematic remarks

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After a bigoted rant directed at new immigrants during “Coaches Corner” on Saturday night, Don Cherry aligned himself perfectly with the “O.K. Boomer” meme, and has since been fired by Sportsnet.

The Hockey Night in Canada host criticized immigrants in the Toronto area who he claimed did not honour Canada’s veterans, angrily stating, “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.”

He continued by saying, “These guys paid for your way of life that you enjoy in Canada, these guys paid the biggest price.”

Sportsnet’s response was swift and succinct, releasing a statement that wrapped up their distaste with his words pretty clearly, “Sports brings people together — it unites us, not divides us,” the statement from Bart Yabsley, Sportsnet president, said. “Following further discussions with Don Cherry after Saturday night’s broadcast, it has been decided it is the right time for him to immediately step down.”

“During the broadcast, he made divisive remarks that do not represent our values or what we stand for. Don is synonymous with hockey and has played an integral role in growing the game over the past 40 years. We would like to thank Don for his contributions to hockey and sports broadcasting in Canada.” The polarizing nature of this issue has already been debated across social media.

The 85-year-old has established himself to many as a legendary Canadian sports icon, and people associate him with the passionate hockey culture that Canada is known for. Family friendly, zealous Don Cherry with his tacky, over-the-top matching suits and his bull terrier mascots named Blue — how could he possibly be fired when he was just “telling it like it is?”

This idea that there is an all-consuming media-fueled crusade on political correctness — similar to the so-called “war” on Christmas — has become the forefront of arguments that are centred on people who say inappropriate, often racist things that end up resulting in consequences that people aren’t happy with.

In this case, Cherry is on the receiving end of the backlash, and rightfully so. Just because some people have fond associations of him on Hockey Night in Canada when they were growing up or simply enjoy his sports commentary, shouldn’t overshadow the offensiveness of the comments he made or take away the problematic nature of them.

Cherry’s remarks are indicative of a deeper problem that not-so-thinly veils his intolerant opinions regarding immigrants and exposes his privileged ignorance.

He could have easily generalized his comments and positioned this rant towards all people who don’t wear poppies on Remembrance Day, but he specifically singled out an entire minority group instead.

I agree wholeheartedly with the sentiment that it’s important to respect and acknowledge the sacrifices  veterans have made for our country and to value their service — I personally have family members who have fought for Canada, and my 93-year-old grandfather is a veteran himself.

But the way to illicit the reaction that Cherry supposedly wanted — to care more about our service men and women and to wear poppies in order to honour them — shouldn’t be done by targeting one demographic of people who have almost nothing to do with the issue he wanted to focus on. How on earth does he know that immigrants don’t wear poppies? How is he even able to identify who an immigrant may be, and more importantly, why does that matter to him?

Instead of using the public platform he had to discuss the importance of Nov. 11, he chose to warp this into an entirely different argument and a meaningless one at that.

Cherry has successfully fuelled the “us versus them” mentality, furthering the idea that this issue, and many others like it, rest solely on the shoulders of new Canadians.

This also isn’t the first time that the hockey host has made his prejudices publicly known. For someone who is revered by so many Canadians and is regarded as an icon, he has said his fair share of questionable things before.

“It’s been a long time coming, several decades in the making, I would say,” said Ken Campbell, a senior writer with The Hockey News, on CTV’s Your Morning Tuesday. “This was not an isolated incident. It wasn’t a one-off transgression. It was a pattern of behaviour that we’ve seen over the past 25, 30 years.”

His distasteful behaviour has been shrugged off by devoted NHL fans for years, and though the majority of his target demographic has been brawny Canadian men who sit at home drinking Budweiser — the sponsor of his show (who he has also criticized) — times are changing, and it’s no longer laughable to be the physical embodiment of “locker room talk.”

Jagmeet Singh, leader of the NDP party, responded to Cherry’s latest blunder by saying,

“Don Cherry, let me introduce you to ‘you people.’ My great grandfather, Hira Singh, who served in WW1 & WW2 under the British. All sorts of people have served and paid the ultimate sacrifice in the name of Canada. Women, immigrants, LGBTQ2S Canadians, Indigenous people. There is no ‘you people.’ We’re all as Canadian as the next. We honour all who served. That’s what Canada is all about.”

If you think this response and the removal of Cherry by Sportsnet is merely a series of whiny overdramatics rooted in sensitivity, then have fun watching reruns of “Coaches Corner” from 30 years-ago while the rest of the world progresses to a point of acceptance and tolerance.

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