To see Don Cherry’s name trending on social media on a Sunday morning is to know the longtime hockey commentator said something controversial yet again during “Hockey Night in Canada.”
Cherry, 85, used his platform during “Coach’s Corner” on Saturday night to lambaste people who don’t wear poppies for Remembrance Day, seemingly zeroing in on immigrants.
“You know, I was talking to a veteran, I said ‘I’m not going to run the poppy thing anymore,’” Cherry began, referencing his annual Remembrance Day segment. “Because what’s the sense? I live in Mississauga, nobody wears ... uh, very few people wear a poppy.”
He went on to claim that “nobody” in downtown Toronto wears poppies.
“Now you go to the small cities, and you know, the rows and rows ... you people love ... they come here, whatever it is, 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.”
You can watch a clip of the video below (and click here to see the full version via CBC):
Don Cherry’s rant on immigrants:— Rosa Hwang (@journorosa) November 10, 2019
“You people... love our way of life, love our milk and honey. At least you could pay a couple of bucks for poppies or something like that. These guys paid for your way of life that you enjoy in Canada.”
Ron MacLean nodded and gave a thumbs up. pic.twitter.com/OXnIwV1n9T
The rant ran before the show played Cherry’s Remembrance Day video, where he visits a cemetery in France to honour Canadian soldiers who fought in the First World War.
Sportsnet has removed the segment from its YouTube channel, and send out a tweet Sunday morning calling the remarks “discriminatory” and not representative of the network’s values:
The PR arm of the NHL also put out a statement Sunday afternoon:
Statement from the National Hockey League regarding Don Cherry’s comments Saturday night: pic.twitter.com/zt57sLy5Fa— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) November 10, 2019
There was immediate backlash on social media and calls for Cherry’s firing. Others, including NDP leader Jagmeet Singh, detailed their own contributions to honouring our veterans and reminded him exactly what Canada looks like. The hashtag #youpeople also trended.
I'm done trying to explain to people like @CoachsCornerDC that yes we too are Canadian, and that "us people" also sacrificed for the same freedom for all, side by side with other brave soldiers, even though we ourselves weren't afforded the same opportunities and freedoms. https://t.co/bG4aj81xUY— Gurpreet Singh Dhillon (@gurpreetdhillon) November 10, 2019
Instead of insulting those of us who have chosen Canada as the place we want to build our lives, perhaps Don Cherry @CoachsCornerDC should consider matching my commitment. That is the sort of action that honours the valour and the memory of our veterans. @hockeynighthttps://t.co/4BB9yIlUNM— Mohamad Fakih (@mohamadfakih8) November 10, 2019
I am a Canadian. I am an immigrant. I paid more than a couple of bucks for this poppy, which I wear proudly. Purchased to support the work of the @JunoBeachCentre. #LestWeForgetpic.twitter.com/gNAVY2Z4TJ— Rosa Hwang (@journorosa) November 10, 2019
It it long due time for Don Cherry's Coach's Corner to be cancelled.— Ahmar Khan (@AhmarSKhan) November 10, 2019
His xenophobic comments being aired weekly are deplorable.
You know why black and brown kids don't enjoy hockey? Because of the deep-rooted racism, which we get to hear EVERY. SINGLE. WEEK. on national TV. https://t.co/IuNrE2FqZC
The account for Canadian Forces in the U.S. even seemed to throw some shade Cherry’s way, tweeting out pictures of veterans of colour, noting “They are Us.”
Paula Simons, an independent senator from Alberta, detailed the ceremony she attended this weekend and discussed her experiences with Remembrance Day in a Twitter thread, noting “many - indeed most - of the young Albertans who fought (and who died) in the First World War were immigrants or the children of immigrants. Others were Indigenous. All deserve to be honoured this week.”
Dear @hockeynight - on Friday, I took part in a ceremony at an Edmonton mosque, honouring Aboriginal Veterans. Many of the people there were immigrants from Pakistan & India. They recited In Flanders Fields. They all wore poppies.— Paula Simons (@Paulatics) November 10, 2019
Mississauga mayor Bonnie Crombie took to Twitter to respond to Cherry’s comments, which he made about the city’s immigrant population. Cherry himself is a Mississauga resident.
For @CoachsCornerDC to say that “you people” do not respect 🇨🇦 or our veterans is despicable. We’re proud of diverse cultural heritage and we‘ll always stand up for it. New immigrants enrich our country for the better. We’re all Canadians and wear our poppies proudly.— Bonnie Crombie 🇨🇦 (@BonnieCrombie) November 10, 2019
I have no doubt don was also factually wrong, but with respect, to me the point is immigrants don't need to prove their patriotism to anybody, let alone don cherry, or have it doubted on national television.— Jeff Halperin (@meh_just_a_guy) November 10, 2019
The anger wasn’t just directed at Cherry — Canadians were also wondering why co-host Ron MacLean simply sat and nodded after Cherry’s words. They pointed out it was a moment where he could have respectfully argued with his colleague. (UPDATE: MacLean did issue an apology on Sunday night before “Hometown Hockey,” calling Cherry’s words “discriminatory” and “flat-out wrong.” Read the full story here.)
Hi @RonMacLeanHTH . While Don Cherry goes on an anti-immigrant rant, you are sitting there - nodding your head. This was a moment to show leadership and moral conviction, but instead you chose to be complicit with your silence. From a Canadian who is an immigrant - do better. https://t.co/SpSc91MNxb— Hasan Hai (@HasanHaiNL) November 10, 2019
Don Cherry flat out blames recent immigrants as the root cause of his completely anecdotal observation that fewer Canadians are wearing poppies these days. Ron McLean, who loves “grilling” Gary Bettman on otherwise benign issues, allows the remarks to stand unchallenged. Neat!— Nathan Smith (@nrs82) November 10, 2019
HuffPost Canada reached out to CBC to comment, and received this response:
“As Rogers Sportsnet is the national rights holder for NHL Hockey in Canada, CBC has no purview over any editorial content (choice of commentators or what they say) on ‘Hockey Night in Canada.’”
UPDATE: This story has been updated to reflect CBC, Sportsnet and the NHL’s responses.