Cherry and Sportsnet Part Ways
CBJ — You can say he stepped down (over an unwillingness to apologize) or you can say he was fired outright — either way, long-time broadcaster and former NHL coach Don Cherry and Rogers Sportsnet have parted ways.
Cherry was widely criticized for comments made on Saturday night on the Coach’s Corner segment of Hockey Night in Canada that seemed to directly target immigrants and how many of them allegedly do not wear poppies in support of Canadian veterans of war, according to Cherry.
“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 during a broadcast, which aired on CBC, which carries the games but Sportsnet is the rights holder. “These guys paid for your way of life that you enjoy in Canada, these guys paid the biggest price.”
The 85-year-old Cherry has not apologized for those comments and has told several reporters he has no plans on altering his stance. It’s that decision which likely sealed his fate, and quite frankly he doesn’t seem too bothered by it.
Sportsnet President Bart Yabsley called Cherry’s comments “discriminatory” on Sunday and announced Monday that he would be no longer be on air.
“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,” Yabsley said in a statement. “During the broadcast, he made divisive remarks that do not represent our values or what we stand for.”
Yabsley also thanked Cherry for “his contributions to hockey and sports broadcasting in Canada.”
Cherry’s co-host Ron MacLean apologized Sunday while in Welland, Ontario for a live airing of Rogers Hometown Hockey. He called Cherry’s comments “flat out wrong” in a statement. He also says he blames himself for having not interjected during that heated topic. It appears the apology by MacLean has taken him off the hook.
There are some that believe Cherry might have been able to survive the incident had he been willing to apologize, but he clearly decided this was the hill he was willing to die on — at least when it comes to his broadcasting career at Rogers. It’s ironic that he winds up being relieved of his duties on Remembrance Day, which he has shown the most passion and support for during his several decades on the air.
While Cherry’s comments were widely criticized with many online demanding he be fired, there was also a strong contingent of supporters that managed to get #Cherryisright hashtag trending in Canada. The decision to move away from Cherry is much more divided than some might expect.