Many Canadians will celebrate and call the news long overdue. Other hockey fans will simply acknowledge it was time. And, of course, some will deride the news as PC-culture run amok and lash out with xenophobic messages of their own.
Don Cherry has parted ways with Sportsnet and will no longer co-host Hockey Night in Canada’s Coaches Corner segment alongside Ron MacLean.
“Sports bring people together – it unites us, not divides,” reads a November 11 statement that Sportsnet shared over the company’s social-media accounts. “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.”
The statement attributed to Sportsnet president Bart Yabsley goes on to thank Cherry for his “contributions to hockey and sports broadcasting in Canada”.
Cherry’s resignation follows a November 9 broadcast of Coaches Corner in which the 85-year-old commentator used the phrase “you people” to describe immigrants living in Canada and criticized immigrants for not wearing the red poppy that commemorates Remembrance Day in Canada.
"You people love—you that come here, whatever it is—you love our way of life,” Cherry said. “You love our milk and honey. At least you could pay a couple of bucks for a poppy or something like that. These guys pay for your way of life that you enjoy in Canada. These guys paid the biggest price."
Meanwhile, cohost MacLean sat quietly beside him.
(Not that it has to be said, but there is no data suggesting that immigrants living in Canada wear fewer poppies than people born in the country.)
Yesterday (November 10), MacLean shared an apology on social media.
“During last night's broadcast, Don made comments that were hurtful and prejudiced and I wish I had handled myself differently,” he wrote. “It was a divisive moment and I am truly upset with myself for allowing it.
“I know we failed you,” he MacLean’s apology continued. “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 same day, Toronto Sun writer Joe Warmington reached Cherry by phone and reported that he would not apologize for his remarks.
“I’ve had my say,” Cherry told Warmington.
Over the weekend, the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC) said that it would no longer accept complaints regarding Cherry’s November 9 comments. The self-regulatory body added that the reason why it would not accept additional complaints was because it had already received so many complaints that the CBSC’s technical systems were overwhelmed by the volume of messages people had already submitted.
"The CBSC has received a large number of very similar complaints concerning Coach’s Corner broadcast on CBC (Sportsnet) on November 9, 2019, exceeding the CBSC’s technical processing capacities," the organization stated.
Cherry joined Hockey Night in Canada in 1986. Before that, he played professional minor hockey, did one game in the NHL with the Boston Bruins, and coached the Colorado Rockies, an NHL team that later moved to New Jersey and was renamed the Devils.
Sportsnet, which has exclusive rights from the National Hockey League to produce Hockey Night in Canada, is owned by Rogers Communications Inc, one of the largest media and communications firms in Canada. Its headquarters is in Toronto.