We don’t have an equivalent to Don Cherry in America. Howard Cosell comes to mind, but certainly in today’s media nobody comes close to Cherry in stature as a legendary broadcaster. Cherry is, or was, an iconic Canadian hockey commentator. But last weekend he was fired for his on-air remarks alleging that the country’s immigrants don’t properly honor fallen soldiers.
ESPN.com explains he used his “Coach’s Corner” segment on “Hockey Night In Canada” to criticize individuals who didn’t wear poppy pins leading up to the nation’s Remembrance Day. The pins are sold by veterans groups and are worn to symbolically honor those who served.
“I live in Mississauga [Ontario]. Very few people wear the poppy. Downtown Toronto, forget it. Nobody wears the poppy. … Now you go to the small cities. You people … that come here, whatever it is — 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. These guys paid for your way of life that you enjoy in Canada. These guys paid the biggest price for that,” Cherry said.
After immediate backlash on social media Sunday, the majority of media reaction Monday morning called for Cherry’s removal. By the afternoon, word spread that he had been fired.
Cherry is 85 years old. He would not take back what he said.
“I know what I said and I meant it,” Cherry told the Toronto Sun after he was fired. “Everybody in Canada should wear a poppy to honor our fallen soldiers.”
He added to the newspaper that: “To keep my job, I cannot be turned into a tamed robot.”
Good for you Don Cherry.
Look, I’m not saying I agree with what he said. And I’m not saying I disagree with him being fired. But I am sure as hell saying that I am glad he did not bow to pressure and meekly take back his comments.
Most people would acquiesce on the spot to save their butts, even though the apology would be said with a crocodile tears.
But Cherry apparently meant what he said. He stands by it. Agree or disagree with the stance, you have to admire someone who speaks their mind and doesn’t crumble instantly when called on it.
Most people cave. The don’t dare take a stance. If they say something even moderately controversial they backtrack like they just ran into a bear on a hike up Katahdin.
Not Cherry. He stayed by his opinion, which last time I checked we are all still allowed to have.
His opinion was not shared by his network and they canned him. That’s their right. No problem. The NHL has condemned Cherry’s comments as they should.
But Cherry remains firm. He refused to apologize Sunday as well. “I have had my say,” he told the Sun.
Cherry’s longtime co-host, Ron MacLean, who gave a “thumbs-up” to Cherry’s comments during that segment, decided to keep his job instead of back his friend. He offered apologies on social media and on the air during Sunday’s Sportsnet NHL coverage.
”Don Cherry made remarks which were hurtful, discriminatory, which were flat out wrong. We at Sportsnet have apologized. We know diversity is the strength of the country. I owe you an apology, too. I sat there, I did not catch it, I did not respond.”
A tamed robot. Something Cherry will never be.
Some content in this blog courtesy of ESPN.com