Don Cherry was fired yesterday. Those unfamiliar with the name are not Canadian. The broadcaster was the bombastic commentator on Hockey Night in Canada, a former player and coach who had made the successful leap to commentator. He was, in many ways, the Canadian equivalent to John Madden.
His termination happened after an on-air segment in which he railed against immigrants not wearing poppies.
Poppies are typically worn on the left lapel for the two weeks prior to Remembrance Day, which corresponds to the United States’ Veterans Day. The flowers are sold by accredited charity groups to raise money for the families of deceased soldiers and military veterans’ needs.
At 85, Cherry was a rarity among television personalities; his age rendered him a likely target for removal by producers focused on youth and the advertising dollars youth brings. He’d also had a string of controversial statements across his career.
Many of those statements are being revisited today in stories about his firing. After dozens of years, he has a lot of comments for people to choose from. The ones most venues include are:
He ripped “Europeans and French (-Canadian) guys” for wearing visors, which brought the Canadian Languages Commissioner down on him.
In 2003, Cherry and MacLean strayed into an argument about Canada not joining the war in Iraq. Cherry’s pro-U.S. sentiments led to 1,500 complaints to the CBC.
*Called a few retired NHL enforcers “a bunch of pukes” for stating regret over their style and urging more research into post-career concussions.Toronto Sun
Other offenses included mocking player’s names, attacking bicycle riders as “pinkos” while crashing Toronto Mayor Rob Ford’s inauguration, and calling his co-worker a barbarian and savage for eating seal meat. His flashy style and perceived “everyman” status has always seen him through controversy, although mocking climate change believers resulted in a renewed pressure against him in recent years.
There’s no doubt that he was controversial. His producers had plenty of reasons to remove him, just as the popularity of his commentary gave them plenty of reason to keep him on.
In this case, he was specifically addressing an issue that he had personally seen… a dearth of visible support for veterans. Where he ran into problems, and where he should, was the phraseology that implied that the people not supporting the vets were immigrants; without any facts to back that up, it becomes a cheap, bigoted, attack… exactly the sort of thing that often leads to media figures being removed from their jobs.
What distresses me is that his firing has immediately split much of Canada into two groups, one that supports the firing and one against it. The firing was absolutely justified, even if the sentiment behind it was, in part, noble. The controversy should be about whether his statement is correct… and that should be addressed in a discussion between Cherry and his supporters, and those who disagree with his statement.