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Don Cherry Fired by Sportsnet After Making Anti-Immigrant Comments

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistNovember 11, 2019

REGINA, SK - MAY 21:  Don Cherry and Ron MacLean of Coaches Corner stand on the ice at the start of the game between Hamilton Bulldogs and the Swift Current Broncos at Brandt Centre - Evraz Place on May 21, 2018 in Regina, Canada. (Photo by Marissa Baecker/Getty Images)
Marissa Baecker/Getty Images

Longtime hockey analyst Don Cherry was fired Monday by Sportsnet in the wake of directing offensive remarks toward immigrants during Saturday night's "Coach's Corner" segment.

Sportsnet issued a statement confirming the decision to part ways with Cherry:

Sportsnet @Sportsnet

Statement from Sportsnet: https://t.co/ah3twdx9po

Joe Warmington of the Toronto Sun first reported Cherry's exit:

Joe Warmington @joe_warmington

BREAKING- @CoachsCornerDC has been fired by @Sportsnet - story to come.

Joe Warmington @joe_warmington

Yes @CoachsCornerDC has been fired by @Sportsnet - story soon. Including an interview with Don Cherry who is quite hurt they would do this on Remembrance Day of all days.

Cherry, 85, criticized immigrants in the Toronto and Mississauga region of Ontario who he claimed were not wearing poppies in honor of veterans on 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," he said on the segment (h/t Associated Press). "These guys paid for your way of life that you enjoy in Canada, these guys paid the biggest price."

Those comments met immediate backlash, including from Cherry's co-host, Ron MacLean:

Ron MacLean @RonMacLeanHTH

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.

John Tory @JohnTory

Don Cherry is way off base to question the devotion of newer Canadians to the very same veterans and the sacrifices we will honour tomorrow on Remembrance Day. His comments are unfair and just plain wrong.

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Аrpon Basu @ArponBasu

Ok, I’ve read a lot of the Don Cherry stuff, and there’s one thing people are missing. It is that for many people of colour, feeling fully Canadian can sometimes be an elusive goal. Hockey is one of the best gateways to reach that goal. Here is why what Cherry said is hurtful.

Аrpon Basu @ArponBasu

But all it takes is “you people” for those incremental gains to be wiped away, completely overwhelmed and erased by two small words that mean so much, that are so malicious. Two words on our “national” hockey broadcast, and you’re right back at zero.

Christine Estima @christineestima

Don Cherry, my grandfather fought in WW2, he was 1 of the few Arabs in the Canadian army, fighting in the Battle of Ortona, killing every fascist he saw. He came home deaf in 1 ear, shrapnel in his back & shell shocked. He didn’t do all that so you could whitewash war heroes. 🖕 https://t.co/WDzLtcopaw

Following the public outcry, Sportsnet decided to move on from Cherry.

Greg Wyshynski @wyshynski

This Monday wave of Don Cherry Must Go sentiment is what Sportsnet desperately tried to defuse with those apologies. But it’s not going away. This one feels different.

Cherry has spent his life in hockey. After playing for two decades in various minor leagues (and one game in the NHL with the Boston Bruins in the 1954-55 season), he served as a head coach in the NHL with the Bruins (1974-79) and Colorado Rockies (1979-80).

He became a full-time broadcaster in 1981 for the CBC, and "Coach's Corner" was later created. Cherry and MacLean have hosted the segment since 1986.

But Cherry's most recent offensive comments were not his first. In 1989, he asked of Winnipeg Jets assistant coach Alpo Suhonen: "Alpo? Isn't that a dog food?"

Sunaya Sapurji of The Athletic outlined more of Cherry's controversial or offensive takes in the past:

"Cherry has been espousing offensive views on 'Hockey Night In Canada' for decades, and nothing has changed. He's been an equal opportunity offender to Russians, Europeans and French Canadians. Concussion spotters are 'dumb-dumbs.' People who ride bicycles are 'pinkos.'

"In 2011, he called former enforcers Chris Nilan, Stu Grimson and Jim Thompson 'pukes' after they spoke out about the dangers of drugs and alcohol following the deaths of Derek Boogaard, Rick Rypien and Wade Belak.

"He even attacked the former players involved in the NHL's concussion settlement, calling it a 'money grab.' This coming from a man who profited from selling their pain in his 'Rock'Em Sock'Em' videos."

While both Sportsnet and MacLean apologized on Cherry's behalf, the man himself never did. That was perhaps the final nail in the coffin for the longtime analyst, both an icon of hockey broadcasting and its most controversial and at times offensive institution.

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