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On Monday, Canadian broadcaster Sportsnet fired legendary NHL commentator Don Cherry for comments he made concerning immigrants and fallen Canadian veterans while he was on air Saturday night.
The controversial comments? Cherry voiced his displeasure with people living in Mississauga and downtown Toronto not wearing poppy pins, which are meant to honor fallen veterans in the days nearing Canada’s Remembrance Day, which is in the same vein as the United States’ Memorial Day. As noted by The Washington Post, both areas of Toronto have large immigrant populations.
“You people love — you, that come here, whatever it is — 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. These guys paid for your way of life, that you enjoy in Canada,’” Cherry said on-air, teeing-up a segment for Remembrance Day.
Comment that got Don Cherry fired:
“People … come here, whatever it is, you love our way of life, you love our milk & honey. At least you can pay a couple of bucks for poppies .. These guys pay for your way of life that you enjoy in Canada. These guys pay the biggest price." pic.twitter.com/QWoQPaiY47
— Tom Elliott (@tomselliott) November 11, 2019
The network quickly buckled under a #FireDonCherry hashtag campaign calling for Cherry’s ouster. Sportsnet posted a statement on Monday announcing the commentator’s fate.
“Sports bring people together — it unites us, not divides us,” a statement from Network President Bart Yablsey 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.”
Statement from Sportsnet: pic.twitter.com/LRKrww0AQ1
— Sportsnet PR (@SportsnetPR) November 11, 2019
The NHL, too, denounced Cherry’s comments, which they said are “in direct conflict with the values of diversity and inclusion.”
“While we recognize Don Cherry’s four decades of service broadcasting NHL games, today’s decision was a justifiable response to his comments on Saturday night,” the statement, which was posted Monday, said. “The opinions he expressed are in direct conflict with the values of diversity and inclusion that we embrace as pillars of the sport.”
Cherry, however, is not backing away from the comments.
“I know what I said and I meant it,” the colorful commentator told the Toronto Sun on Monday. “Everybody in Canada should wear a poppy to honor our fallen soldiers.”
“I speak the truth and I walk the walk,” he continued. “I have visited the bases of the troops, been to Afghanistan with our brave soldiers at Christmas, been to cemeteries of our fallen around the world and honored our fallen troops on ‘Coach’s Corner.’”
“To keep my job, I cannot be turned into a tamed robot,” Cherry added.
Ron MacLean, Cherry’s longtime broadcasting counterpart, distanced himself from the comments, calling them “hurtful, discriminatory,” and “flat-out wrong.”
“Don Cherry made remarks which were hurtful, discriminatory, which were flat-out wrong,” MacLean said in a statement, according to The Washington Post. “I sat there, did not catch it, did not respond. … Last night was a really great lesson for Don and me. We were wrong, and I sincerely apologize. I wanted to thank you for calling me and Don on that last night. ”
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) November 11, 2019