Sportsnet and Coach’s Corner co-host Ron MacLean have apologized for TV commentator Don Cherry’s remarks on Saturday night’s segment.
The 85-year-old said on his weekly segment as part of Hockey Night in Canada that he’s less frequently seeing people wearing poppies anymore to honour fallen Canadian soldiers – and he singled out those he believes are immigrants in Toronto, prompting a swift online backlash.
“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,” Cherry said. “These guys paid for your way of life that you enjoy in Canada, these guys paid the biggest price.”
Cherry made his comment prior to running his annual Remembrance Day video montage, where he is seen walking through a military cemetery in France visiting the graves of Canadian soldiers who went to battle in the First World War.
Ron MacLean apologized during the opening remarks of Hometown Hockey which aired on Sportsnet Sunday evening.
“I owe you an apology too. That is the the big thing that I want to emphasize. I sat there, did not catch it and did not respond,” said MacLean.
“Don Cherry made remarks which were hurtful, discriminatory were flat-out wrong,” added MacLean. “We know diversity is the strength of the country. Wee see it in the travels with our show and with Hockey Night in Canada
MacLean also tweeted saying he has worked with Don for 30 years and “know that we failed you.”
The tweet read in part, “I wish I had handled myself differently. It was a divisive moment and I am truly upset with myself for allowing it.”
I have worked with Don for 30 years, and we both love hockey. But last night, I know we failed you. I see hockey as part of what unites us. I have the honour of travelling across our country to celebrate Canada's game, and our diversity is one of our country's greatest strengths.
— Ron MacLean (@RonMacLeanHTH) November 10, 2019
Sportsnet president Bart Yabsley issued a statement Sunday morning, calling Cherry’s comments discriminatory and offensive.
“They do not represent our values and what we stand for as a network. We have spoken with Don about the severity of the issue and we sincerely apologize for these divisive remarks.”
The NHL called the comments “offensive and contrary to the values we believe in” in a brief statement issued Sunday.
The CBC said in a statement that even though Coach’s Corner is filmed in its studio in the CBC building in Toronto, it is broadcast as part of a sub-licensing deal with Rogers Media.
“As Rogers Media is the national rights holder for NHL Hockey in Canada, CBC has no purview over any editorial (choice of commentators or what they say) with respect to Hockey Night in Canada,” CBC spokesman Chuck Thompson said in an email.
Rogers Media, a subsidiary of Rogers Communications, is the parent company of Sportsnet which also owns this website.
The hashtags #firedoncherry and #DonCherryMustGo were trending on social media in the wake of his comments.
Among the online responses to Cherry’s rant was one from Paula Simons, an independent senator from Alberta, and Mississauga mayor Bonnie Crombie.
She wrote that it has not been her experience that new immigrants don’t wear poppies or appreciate the tragedies of war, and further condemned the sentiment behind Cherry’s remarks.
Dear @hockeynight – on Friday, I took part in a ceremony at an Edmonton mosque, honouring Aboriginal Veterans. Many of the people there were immigrants from Pakistan & India. They recited In Flanders Fields. They all wore poppies.
— Paula Simons (@Paulatics) November 10, 2019
“We don’t honour the sacrifice of those who died in battle by sowing division or distrust,” Simons wrote.
— Kevin Bull (@YyzkevinBull) November 10, 2019
Hey @CBC it’s time to get rid of #DonCherry. His comments were, frankly, disgusting. In 2020, our national broadcaster should not be employing a xenophobic, homophobic, racist commentator. His time has come. #DonCherryMustGo https://t.co/ARMSvZyTI3
— adaroundtown (@adaroundtown) November 10, 2019
The “you people” #DonCherry is talking about are ppl like my mom. A volunteer in various communities throughout Montreal, even for the Veterans Hopsital in Ste-Anne. She gives back and not just one day a year. My mother is an immigrant. I’m proud of that fact. #DonCherryMustGo
— Queen MKB (@queenmkb) November 10, 2019
Poppies are sold every year starting on the last Friday in October until Remembrance Day on Nov. 11 by The Royal Canadian Legion to raise money in support of veterans and their families.
The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council also posted on their website that they would be unable to accept any further complaints as the number they have received concerning the Coach’s Corner broadcast has exceed their their technical processing capacities.