Long-time hockey commentator Don Cherry is out as co-host of Coach’s Corner following televised remarks where he claimed new immigrants don’t wear poppies and implied they don’t support veterans
“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 said in a statement. “During the broadcast, he made divisive remarks that do not represent our values or what we stand for.”
Cherry, 85, made the comments Saturday night during his weekly “Coach’s Corner” segment on “Hockey Night in Canada” that sparked fierce condemnation from the public, politicians and the National Hockey League.
“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 has not responded publicly since the comments were made.
Sportsnet and “Coach’s Corner” co-host Ron MacLean both apologized Sunday for Cherry’s remarks.
“Don’s discriminatory comments are offensive and they do not represent our values and what we stand for as a network,” Sportsnet President Bart Yabsley said in a statement earlier Sunday. “We have spoken with Don about the severity of this issue and we sincerely apologize for these divisive remarks.”
MacLean said in a statement that Cherry’s remarks were “hurtful, discriminatory” and that he wish he had responded differently on-air.
“Don Cherry made remarks which were hurtful, discriminatory, which were flat out wrong,” MacLean said. “I owe you an apology, too. I sat there, did not catch it, did not respond,”
“Last night was a really great lesson to Don and me. We were wrong, and I sincerely apologize. I wanted to thank you for calling me and Don on that last night.”
Meanwhile, the NHL and a number of politicians at all levels of government quickly condemned the comments.
Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie called his comments “despicable.”
“We’re proud of diverse cultural heritage and we’ll always stand up for it,” she said on Twitter. “New immigrants enrich our country for the better. We’re all Canadians and wear our poppies proudly.”
Former Liberal MP Bob Rae also weighed in.
“Cherry’s remarks were ignorant and prejudiced, and at this point in our history can’t go without comment,” he said.
Online there was both outrage calling for Cherry to be fired and those calling for him to be kept on-air under the hashtag #DonCherryIsRight, which was trending on Twitter Monday.
Hockey Night in Canada was a long-time CBC Saturday night staple, but the show moved to Sportsnet when Rogers landed a 12-year, $5.2 billion national broadcast rights deal with the NHL that began in 2014.
The show is broadcast on CBC in a sub-licensing deal with Rogers Media, which owns Sportsnet. But the show is run by Sportsnet and filmed in its studio in the CBC building in Toronto.
*With files from the Canadian Press
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