Under normal circumstances the story of hockey analyst Don Cherry’s intolerant remarks on Hockey Night in Canada about immigrants not wearing poppies, Canada’s symbol for remembering our war dead, and his ultimate firing by Sportsnet, would have pretty well lost its legs by now.
But, I suppose because of Cherry’s larger-than-life personality, a petition to have him rehired continues to grow, heading toward the 300,000 mark as I write this.
I don’t care one way or the other, if he remains fired or is rehired.
I have never been a fan of Cherry’s.
I have always found him a boor and an embarrassment.
I used to hate the thought that some sports organization in the United States might pick up his commentary on Coach’s corner that he co-hosts with Ron MacLean, leading Americans to believe that the clown suits he wore were the norm up here.
But that worry disappeared once they got Donald Trump as president. They can’t laugh at anybody any more.
I also didn’t like Cherry’s support of fighting in hockey and his putdown of European players for not displaying the brutal instincts of the sport as it was in years past, an integral part of pretty well every game being played in this country.
However, having said all that, I am not at all sure I could have pulled the pin on him for his intemperate remarks. I certainly would have had words with him but I am not so sure about the firing.
But then I am not his employer.
Cherry, 85, on Coach’s Corner on Nov. 9 singled out new immigrants in Toronto and Mississauga, where he lives, for not honouring Canada’s veterans and dead soldiers by wearing a poppy in the lead-up to Remembrance Day, Nov. 11..
“You people … 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,” he said. “These guys paid for your way of life that you enjoy in Canada, these guys paid the biggest price.”
Sportsnet fired him on Remembrance Day.
“Sports brings people together — it unites us, not divides us,” a statement from Bart Yabsley, Sportsnet president, said. “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. 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.”
I do believe Cherry was wrong to say what he did, singling out immigrants when probably just as many, some who presumably are life-long residents of this country, can be seen without poppies.
And this may not be that they are showing disrespect, just that their poppy fell off, as most of us have experienced, or they have put on another jacket without taking the poppy off the one they had worn previously. Some to a certain point may just have forgotten to get one. There can be all sorts of reasons for a person to be seen not wearing one, none of them worth a complaint..
In regard to the immigrants, some of the latest arrivals may not even know of our custom.
In any event, the wearing or not of the poppy is a choice, not a law or requirement. In fact, not wearing one is as much a right as Cherry’s right to comment on it.
Some have decried the fact that the firing of Cherry is an infringement on free speech.
Not at all.
If he had been thrown in jail, that certainly would have been an infringement on free speech and been a cause for uproar.
But he simply lost his job.
He had the freedom to say what he did but with that freedom there can be consequences, especially in the workplace.
If you tell your boss to f- – – off, it could be said you are exercising your right to free speech.
But surely it follows that in such situations the boss is going to exercise his right, the one in which he fires you.
Sportsnet thought Cherry’s comments were out of line and exercised its right to fire him.
In regard to whether or not Cherry should get his job back, I am probably more concerned with the comments of some who have said that he was only expressing an opinion held by many Canadians, that there is nothing wrong with wanting immigrants to immediately assimilate and become like the rest of us..
In my heart I know this sentiment is there in many places because I have seen it first-hand and abhor it.
I like to think that we are better than that
And, despite the rising numbers on the petition to rehire Cherry, it seems we are.
The Canadian Broadcasting Standards Council said it was so overloaded with complaints about the segment on Coach’s Corner that it exceeded the organization’s technical processing capacity, so much so that it was unable to accept further complaints.
That to me speaks volumes as to how the majority of Canadians really feel about Cherry’s remarks. They disapproved of them.
With a podium like the one he had with Coach’s Corner comes responsibility. He disrespected it.
Whether some of his supporters like it or not, he is now destined to live with the consequences.