Long-time Canadian hockey coach and commentator Don Cherry was fired from his weekly Hockey Night in Canada segment “Coach’s Corner” Monday afternoon after controversy surrounding derogatory comments he made during a weekend broadcast reached a fever pitch. Sportsnet released a statement thanking the Canadian icon for his contributions to hockey broadcasting but firmly asserted that it was time for his immediate departure.
“Sports brings people together—it unites us, not divides us,” the statement by Sportsnet president Bart Yabsley read. “It has been decided it is the right time for [Cherry] to immediately step down. During [Saturday night’s] broadcast, he made divisive remarks that do not represent our values or what we stand for.” According to Yabsley, the decision was made after lengthy discussions with Cherry himself.
“Don is synonymous with hockey and has played an integral role in growing the game over the past 40 years,” the statement continues. “We would like to thank Don for his contributions to hockey and sports broadcasting in Canada.”
During the “Coach’s Corner” segment Saturday night, Cherry remarked to co-host Ron MacLean that there are fewer people wearing poppies in November ahead of Remembrance Day. He went on to attribute the decrease in poppy representation to Canadian immigrants, using the problematic phrase “you people.”
“You people love—they come here, whatever it is—you love our way of life, you love our milk and honey at least you could pay a couple of bucks for a poppy or something like that,” he said Saturday. “These guys pay for your way of life that you enjoy in Canada. These guys paid the biggest price.”
Cherry is a longtime supporter of veterans and Canadian servicepeople and often uses his sports broadcasting platform to draw attention to the Armed Forces in November. This isn’t the first time he has made controversial and derogatory comments about generalized groups of people, however, and for many viewers, these latest remarks were the last straw. Throughout the rest of the weekend, debate raged on Twitter and other social media platforms over what this development should mean for Cherry and the Canadian Broadcasting Standards Council received so many complaints, it was unable to process them all.
Don, let me introduce you to “#youpeople”
My great grandfather, Hira Singh, who served in WW1 & WW2 under the British.
— Jagmeet Singh (@theJagmeetSingh) November 10, 2019
Sportsnet released a statement the morning after the segment aired, apologizing for the remarks and asserting that the discriminatory comments do not reflect its view as a company.
Sunday evening, Ron MacLean (who had also come under fire for not pushing back on Cherry’s comments while on-air) issued an apology on Twitter and then again at the beginning of his Sunday show Hometown Hockey.
“Don Cherry made remarks which were hurtful, discriminatory which were flat out wrong,” he said. “It certainly doesn’t stand for what Sportsnet or Rogers represents. We know that diversity is the strength of the country… So I owe you an apology too, that’s what I want to emphasize. I sat there. I did not catch it, did not respond… Last night was a really good lesson to Don and me. We were wrong and I sincerely apologize.”
Ron MacLean begins Hometown Hockey by addressing the comments Don Cherry made last night and apologizing pic.twitter.com/2QSVOAxfX1
— Brady Trettenero (@BradyTrett) November 10, 2019
Cherry broke his silence shortly after news of his firing broke and spoke to the Toronto Sun revealing he had no regrets about the unpopular remarks that led to his swift departure.
“To keep my job, I cannot be turned into a tamed robot,” he said.