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Don Cherry Fired: Where Sports and Consideration for Others Intersect

Don Cherry was today fired by Sportsnet because of his comments about immigrants to Canada. What made these comments so harmful?

In what might be the most important Canadian hockey story of the season, the iconic Don Cherry was fired by Sportsnet following remarks that singled out immigrants and accused them of being unpatriotic. As my son said in his The Hockey Writers rumor report the other day, “typically, we don’t discuss political topics while discussing hockey rumors but on Saturday, Don Cherry slammed the two worlds together and he could be in some hot water for it.”

Indeed, Cherry was in hot water as his firing showed. But, as a long-time professor (over 40 years before I retired) at the University of Alberta, what makes this firing truly significant is that it highlights a difference between currently living in Canada and currently living in the United States (and both my son and I are dual-citizens of these great countries).

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In short, Canadians systematically do not tolerate the abuse of its citizens. In contrast, with former (sort of) reality television The Apprentice host Donald Trump now the President of the United States who’s singularly supporting the systematic abuse of immigrants as a boorish, yet popular “sport” among a certain portion of redneck thinkers, the catchphrase “You’re Fired” actually means something in Canada in ways that it does not – at least yet – in the United States.

Perhaps, and this is my personal opinion, let’s hope “You’re Fired” soon might actually mean something in the US when Trump is impeached. I hope that, as humans, we can heal this dis-ease of hurting other people from the way we all behave.

I Admit I Liked Don Cherry

I believed Don Cherry crossed the line and I’m not sorry he was fired. That said, I liked Cherry and looked forward to listening to him and MacLean on Hockey Night in Canada’s Coach’s Corner. I found him playful and extroverted and liked that he threw out opinions that people could love or hate. His puffery, outlandish dress, and self-promotion were so over-the-top that I figured no reasonable hockey fan would ever take it literally. I worry that I might have been wrong in supporting any space for him to rant on.

Cherry crossed the line for me with his ignorant comments about immigrants. But, sadly, I’m watching others in positions of power say similar things and enact similar biases towards immigrants that I personally find intolerable – and, sadly, with little remorse or pushback. I’m pleased Sportsnet took away the power of Cherry to sling diatribes towards others.

I’m pleased it didn’t take Ron McLean long to comment. Perhaps what I found most curious about Ron McLean’s apology on Twitter was that he “missed” Cherry’s comments and, he admitted, that was wrong of him. Embedded in that comment was the admission and probability that he often tuned out when his partner went off on a rambling bunny trail. McLean admits now that he should have challenged Cherry. But the truth is he probably wasn’t even paying much attention but was waiting for his next “act” of the Coaches Corner segment.

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Why Don Cherry Was Fired?

Cherry was fired because he made the following comments during Saturday’s Hockey Night in Canada broadcast:

“You people you come here 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. These guys paid for your way of life that you enjoy in Canada, these guys paid the biggest price.”

Sportsnet immediately issued a statement about those comments condemning Cherry’s words. The text of their public statement was: “Don’s discriminatory comments are offensive and they do not represent our values and what we stand for as a network. We have spoken with Don about the severity of this issue and we sincerely apologize for these divisive remarks.”

What Was Lost on Cherry about His Comments About Immigrants

Ironically, what was lost on Don Cherry in his comments about immigrants to Canada is how many Canadian-born hockey players are now making their homes in the United States who are now playing or who have had a hockey career in one American city or another.

Even if Cherry were correct about recent immigrants to Canada – I say recently because, unless we’re First Nations, we are all immigrants to Canada – what holiday of remembrance would Canadian players have to forget to receive such “heinous” treatment from an American commentator? Martin Luther King Day, for example? Few young Canadians probably even understand how important Martin Luther King was to life in America.

Also, ironically, as far as Canadian immigrants in the United States, the Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues have the most Canadians on their 2019-20 roster – at 17 (out of a roster of about 21 players or so). No doubt these Canadian immigrants to the United States have also trespassed on rightful American cultural understandings.

Also ironically, during last season’s Stanley Cup championship, Cherry lauded the “dump-and-chase” way the Blues played the game. Specifically, he noted on the Coach’s Corner segment on Hockey Night in Canada about the immigrant-loaded Blues’ roster: “That’s how you play the game.”

There was something quite ignorant about Cherry’s comments in light of Canadian hockey-players immigration to the United States.

What Now with Hockey Night in Canada?

Well, Don Cherry is gone. My hope is that something as entertaining (and lots less hurtful) will be put in its place. Already, The Hockey News has suggested putting forth the segment of Hockey Night in Canada’s Headlines. Led by Ron MacLean, the longtime in-studio host and Cherry’s Coach’s Corner sidekick, and “insiders” Elliotte Friedman and Chris Johnston to update the NHL’s major stories.

That might be a good choice. I have to admit, from one geek to another, I like Friedman. If he and I were conversing, I’d be pretty sure I wasn’t the biggest geek in the room.

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  1. Pingback: Don Cherry Speaks: “I Would Have Apologized” – NHL Trade Talk – Hockey Rumors

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