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TAUBE – Did bombastic hockey commentator deserve to lose his job?

DON CHERRY. (Image: Facebook)

DON CHERRY, one of Canada’s best-known media personalities, was fired by Sportsnet after a rant about immigrants, poppies and Remembrance Day. His termination shockingly happened mere hours after the memorial ceremonies had ended.

Was it justified?

When it comes to this bombastic, politically incorrect and controversial figure affectionately known as “Grapes,” shades of grey barely exist.

The longtime hockey commentator has a wealth of knowledge about the sport as a former coach and player. Most Canadians know him from the segment Coach’s Corner with sportscaster Ron MacLean on Hockey Night in Canada. Once described by MacLean as “six minutes of psychotherapy for athletes,” they poked holes and increased blood pressure readings on everything from European hockey players to politics and the military.

Although he’d survived controversies for 38 years without getting fired, Cherry’s 48-second rant on Coach’s Corner on Nov. 9 did him in. Let’s go through it:

“You know, I was talking to a veteran. I said, I’m not going to run the poppy thing anymore, because what’s the sense? I live in Mississauga and nobody wears … uhh, uhh, very few people wear a poppy. Downtown Toronto, forget it, downtown Toronto, nobody wears a poppy. And I’m not going to … he says, wait a minute, how about running it for the people that buy them? Now, you go to the small cities, and you know, you know, the rows on rows, you people love, 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 pay for your way of life that you enjoy in Canada, these guys paid … uhh … the biggest price. Anyhow, I’m going to run it again for you great people and good Canadians that bought a poppy, I’m still going to run it. Anyhow. …”

If Cherry had focused on the fact that fewer Canadians are wearing poppies on Remembrance Day than in previous years, it would have been a good point. People are still wearing poppies, but the overall numbers have seemingly decreased. Fewer are paying “a couple of bucks for poppies,” and that’s troubling in its own right.

Unfortunately, he went much further.

Sportsnet was likely concerned about his use of the term “you people,” and references to those who “come here” and “love our way of life” and “milk and honey.” This pushed the discussion toward Canadian immigrants, and whether they respect military veterans who “paid … the biggest price” for our way of life.

Attempting to identify immigrants is a mug’s game. It’s not tattooed on their foreheads, and Cherry doesn’t have a hidden ability to pick them out like clockwork.

Indeed, there are Canadian immigrants who wear poppies and those who don’t. Canadians who have lived here for several generations do the same thing. If fewer poppies are visible on our clothing, that’s a problem for all Canadians.

Isolating one group, or insinuating some Canadians handle the lack of poppies in a more honourable fashion, shows poor judgment.

Perhaps Cherry became too emotional. It’s happened to him before. But if you take his rant at face value, he clearly went too far. 

MacLean, who nodded his head in agreement at certain points Cherry made and gave him a thumbs up, ultimately apologized. In a Nov. 10 tweet, he said Cherry’s comments were “hurtful and prejudiced and I wish I had handled myself differently.”

Sportsnet condemned Cherry on Nov. 10, and fired him the next day. The timing was no coincidence – they could have removed him later in the week – and was likely meant to humiliate Cherry. The Toronto Sun’s Joe Warmington wrote in a Nov. 11 tweet that Cherry was “quite hurt they would do this on Remembrance Day of all days.”

Was it an offence worthy of firing?

No, even though he’d stepped into a hole the size of the Grand Canyon. If he had been willing to apologize or walk it back to some extent, maybe he could have mitigated the damage. This apparently wasn’t in the cards and the 85-year-old is now out of work – and it’s likely permanent.

Cherry was fired by a privately-owned company for making controversial remarks about immigrants, while Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was re-elected after three instances of blackface and brownface were revealed.

Will Canadians recognize the irony?

It’s hard to say.

Troy Media columnist and political commentator Michael Taube was a speechwriter for former prime minister Stephen Harper.

© Troy Media

About Mel Rothenburger (7051 Articles)
ArmchairMayor.ca is a forum about Kamloops and the world. It has more than one million views. Mel Rothenburger is the former Editor of The Daily News in Kamloops, B.C. (retiring in 2012), and past mayor of Kamloops (1999-2005). At ArmchairMayor.ca he is the publisher, editor, news editor, city editor, reporter, webmaster, and just about anything else you can think of. He is grateful for the contributions of several local columnists. This blog doesn't require a subscription but gratefully accepts donations to help defray costs.

5 Comments on TAUBE – Did bombastic hockey commentator deserve to lose his job?

  1. Beverley Campbell // November 13, 2019 at 9:47 PM // Reply

    But Dawne, he was hired solely on the basis of being controversial, and when he said “you people come here” he probably meant westerners that move to Ontario….

  2. Don Drysdale // November 13, 2019 at 1:50 PM // Reply

    See you are entitled to your opinions even though your comments in some cases are baseless but did any of you consider that you were entitled to speak your mind as Freedom of Speech allows you yet Cherry was not because of the bias politically correct.

  3. The comments that Don Cherry made were neither threatening to anyone, did not promote any violence, did not specify any one ethnic group. Political correctness is good. Nobody mentioned that it was racist or bigoted to call us Nazis or DPs when we came to Canada, along with many other slurs. The reason we left our home and came to Canada was that we were not Nazis, but that was not understood by most. Political correctness did not exist in those days and Don Cherry is correct, newcomers these days must think they are in the land of milk and honey when they get many perks that did not exist for newcomers of years ago. We worked jobs that most did not want, there were no breaks and the conditions we lived in at first were pretty grim. In our homeland you could get arrested for having an opinion and if you did not agree with the system it was pretty much a sure thing you would disappear. That is what scares me about what is happening in Canada. It may not be anything like what was going on during the war years, but we are on a slippery slope of losing free speech when a mere opinion can cause the loss of your employment. Not a threat or anything, just an opinion. Everyone has different opinions and as long as they are only opinions and not outright ignorant rude slurs, then losing one’s job for making them is political correctness in overdrive.

  4. I don’t agree with the “bombast” and agree not with the overreacting either. Having said that, does Don Cherry deserve to lose his platform anymore than say the National Post deserve to be shut-down? I read that fomenting drivel everyday and they have a following…very likely the same followers of the Don.

  5. L Dawne Taylor // November 13, 2019 at 9:11 AM // Reply

    Absolutely he should have been fired. In fact he should have been fired years ago for his rants and prejudice.

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