Rogers Sportsnet has fired Don Cherry following the outcry over his "despicable" rant against immigrants on Saturday's popular Coach's Corner segment of Hockey Night in Canada.
Cherry, 85, complained Saturday on the broadcast as part of Hockey Night in Canada that he’s less frequently seeing people wearing poppies anymore to honour fallen Canadian soldiers — and he singled out those he believes are immigrants in the GTA.
“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.”
The response from the public was swift and passionate. By Sunday morning #FireDonCherry remained the second trending topic on Twitter in Canada.
Today's firing was confirmed by Rogers Sportsnet in a statement released today.
“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,” Sportsnet President Bart Yabsley said in a statement released on Twitter Monday afternoon. “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.”
Speaking to The Toronto Sun on Monday, Cherry said "To keep my job," said Cherry, "I cannot be turned into a tamed robot."
Todd Allen, vice-president of Marketing for Labatt Breweries of Canada which sponsors Coach’s Corner, said "the comments made Saturday on Coach's Corner were clearly inappropriate and divisive, and in no way reflect Budweiser's views.
"We immediately expressed our concerns and respect the decision which was made by Sportsnet today.”
Given that he lives in, promotes and supposedly loves Mississauga, Cherry’s remarks belittling his neighbours seem puzzling.
Mississauga mayor Bonnie Crombie wrote Sunday on Twitter:“For [Don Cherry] to say that “you people” do not respect Canada or our veterans is despicable. We’re proud of diverse cultural heritage and we’ll always stand up for it.”
Sunday afternoon Cherry's co-host Ron MacLean tweeted that he wanted “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.”
MacLean went on to say: “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.”
The NHL released a short statement saying: “Hockey is at its best when it brings people together. The comments made last night were offensive and contrary to the values we believe in.”
The Toronto Star's Kevin MacGran reported that Cherry contacted the Toronto Sun today and said he had “no problem” being “fired,” adding that his words were not racial or bigoted but instead were patriotic and respectful of Canadian troops.
“I know what I said and I meant it,” he told the Sun. “Everybody in Canada should wear a poppy to honour our fallen soldiers.”
The Royal Canadian Legion in an email to The Toronto Star said,“Mr. Cherry’s personal opinion was hurtful, divisive and in no way condoned by the legion,” said Thomas D. Irvine, CD, Dominion President.
“His comments ran contrary to our own articles of faith which are based on respect for people from all backgrounds. We do remain appreciative of his passionate support for veterans.
“We know many new Canadians understand and welcome the tradition of the red poppy. For our part, we will continue to do our best to educate all citizens about the significance of this powerful symbol, and the meaning of Remembrance.”
Cherry, who has a lengthy history of making racially insensitive remarks, regularly promotes his strong ties to Remembrance Day and the Canadian military.