Longtime Canadian hockey pundit Don Cherry was fired Monday over comments he made about immigrant Canadians.
Cherry, a fixture on weekly “Hockey Night in Canada” telecasts since 1981, lost his job after criticizing immigrants for not paying proper respect to Canadian military veterans by wearing poppies customarily sold by veterans groups in honor of Remembrance Day, which is celebrated in Canada on November 11 and similar to Veterans Day in the U.S.
“You know, I was talking to a veteran, and I said, I’m not going to run the (annual Remembrance Day montage) anymore, because what’s the sense? I live in Mississauga, nobody wears, very few people wear a poppy,” said Cherry. “Downtown Toronto, forget it, downtown Toronto, nobody wears a poppy. And I’m not going to, and 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, 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 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. Anyhow, I’m going to run it for you great people and good Canadians that bought a poppy.”
Outcry was swift, and there was widespread anger at Cherry’s use of the phrase “you people” to describe immigrants. Sportsnet, Cherry’s employer, apologized for the broadcaster’s comments on Sunday.
“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,” Sportsnet President Bart Yabsley said in a statement released on Twitter Monday afternoon. “During the broadcast, he made divisive remarks that do not represent our values or what we stand for.
“Don is synonymous with hockey and has played an integral role in growing the game over the past 40 years. We would like to thank Don for his contributions to hockey and sports broadcasting in Canada.”
Statement from Sportsnet: pic.twitter.com/ah3twdx9po
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) November 11, 2019
The NHL also issued a statement criticizing Cherry. Cherry himself refused to apologize for his comments when reached by the Toronto Sun.
Cherry has always been outspoken. He has often been critical of European-born NHL players, especially compared to their Canadian counterparts. He has also been critical of those seeking to tamp down on fighting in hockey, and was widely criticized for a 2013 comment in which he suggested female reporters should not be welcome in men’s locker rooms. This was the last straw for his employers, and he will no longer be appearing on Canadian NHL telecasts.