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Sportsnet has fired Don Cherry: So there was such a thing as going too far

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Coach’s Corner co-host Don Cherry made racist anti-immigrant remarks disguised as patriotism for his final appearance in the HNIC intermission.

By Wakalani (Flickr) - Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0,

In what should go on the first line of his Wikipedia entry as his legacy, Don Cherry made his last appearance on Coach’s Corner one that revealed his true nature for the five or so people who hadn’t already discovered it.

Cherry, 85, ranted about poppy-less Canadians during his “Coach’s Corner” segment, implying that immigrants who don’t wear poppies are ungrateful.

“Downtown Toronto, forget it, downtown Toronto, nobody wears a poppy,” Cherry said. “You people love, you 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 of bucks for poppies or something like that. These guys paid for your way of life that you enjoy in Canada.”

Cherry’s “Coach’s Corner” co-host Ron MacLean gave a thumbs up after the rant was over. But by Sunday, he had realized that was a pretty terrible reaction.

“Don Cherry made remarks which were hurtful, discriminatory, which were flat out wrong,” MacLean said at the outset of a Hometown Hockey broadcast. “I sat there, did not catch it, did not respond.”

Vice’s story on this horrible episode in hockey television history.

I don’t think any of the Sportsnet or Rogers executives are among the five people shocked by this fully foreseeable turn of events:

Their first try was on Twitter.

Their tweet has been ratioed convincingly and has thousands of responses, most of them incredulous at the weakness, factual inaccuracy and inadequate nature of this first response.

Ron MacLean fared a little better, since he admits some culpability:

But none of this at all should have surprised anyone. Cherry has been walking a line between entertaining bombast and promotion of intolerance for years. With this final straw, he attacked a central core value of Canadian small-L liberalism, that is the idea the multiculturalism is intrinsically Canadian. By picking the performance of patriotism as the weapon the try to stir up hatred of non-white Canadians — there’s no other possible, plausible interpretation of his “small cities” vs Mississauga comments — he hit on something no one would tolerate.

They had been tolerating the thinly veiled homophobia, the xenophobia mixed in with masculinist rhetoric that he loved to use against Russians and other Europeans. He constantly complained that the Maple Leafs weren’t Canadian enough, and all of that was fine with most people.

Oh, sure we complained, people like us, but the ratings were good, and so Sportsnet extended his contract last summer. They planed to inflict a full season of that sort of line-walking coded speech that would comfort all those fans who liked the world where men were men, hockey was Canadian and women were, well, not in the locker room doing their jobs, that’s for sure. This didn’t happen to them by accident.

I’m sorry your balloons popped, Sportsnet. I’m sorry you had to face up to the reality of the dirty game you were playing for ratings. But this time we decided to act entitled. We decided we were entitled to a hockey game free of that crap. And, for once, enough people you think matter agreed with us.

At least he never flipped a pen or wore tight pants though, eh?

Update, Kevin McGran at the Star has some quotes from Labatt’s and the Legion on this firing. And Labatt’s signed off on the firing. Worth a read.

November 12, 2019: Comments have been closed since 200 means there really isn’t anything new to be said, and we haven’t got the time to moderate a bunch of attempts to mischaracterize what the NHL, USA Hockey, Hockey Canada, Sportsnet, Rogers, Labbat, the Canadian Legion, etc. etc. can clearly see as offensive speech.

This blog will not host arguments in favour of tolerating racism. We believe we are entitled to no racism on hockey broadcasts.