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Hockey commentator Don Cherry fired after rant about immigrants

Canadian hockey commentators Don Cherry and Ron MacLean
Don Cherry, at left with fellow Canadian hockey commentator Ron MacLean, was fired Monday.
(Marissa Baecker / Getty Images)

Don Cherry, Canada’s most polarizing, flamboyant and opinionated hockey commentator, was fired Monday after a TV rant in which he said new immigrants were not honoring the country’s fallen soldiers.

Rogers Sportsnet President Bart Yabsley announced the decision following discussions with the 85-year-old broadcaster.

“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.”

On Saturday night, Cherry derided immigrants, saying, “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. These guys paid for your way of life that you enjoy in Canada, these guys paid the biggest price.”

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The tradition of wearing poppies in Canada honors the country’s war dead on Remembrance Day, which was observed Monday.

Cherry has provided commentary following the first intermission of “Hockey Night in Canada” for more than three decades.

He said late Monday he would not be apologizing.

“I know what I said and I meant it. Still do. Everybody in Canada should wear a poppy to honor our fallen soldiers,” Cherry told the Canadian Press.

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Cherry denied he was singling out visible minorities.

“I did not say minorities, I did not say immigrants. If you watch ‘Coach’s Corner,’ I did not say that. I said ‘everybody.’ And I said ‘you people,’ ” Cherry said.

“Irish, Scotch, anybody that’s newcomers to Canada, and they should wear a poppy to honor our dead from the past, whether they’re Scotch or Irish or English, or where they come from.”

Cherry added he could have stayed on “if I had turned into a tame robot who nobody would recognize.”

“I can’t do that after 38 years,” he said

Known for his outlandish suits, Cherry often mangled the names of foreign-born players over the years and occasionally weighed in with thoughts on politics. He has been a part of the Hockey Night broadcast since 1980.

“Don is synonymous with hockey and has played an integral role in growing the game,” Yabsley said. “We would like to thank Don for his contributions to hockey and sports broadcasting in Canada.”

The Montreal Canadiens’ glory days created a special bond between the team and fans that continues to live on despite the team’s lack of success in recent years.

The National Hockey League said in a statement that Cherry’s remarks were “offensive and contrary to the values we believe in.”

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Ron MacLean, the longtime co-host of “Coach’s Corner,” apologized Sunday evening.

“Don Cherry made remarks that were hurtful, discriminatory, were flat-out wrong,” MacLean said. “I owe you an apology too. That’s the big thing I want to emphasize. I sat there, I did not catch it. I did not respond.”

The Canadian Broadcasting Standards Council said it was so overloaded with complaints about the segment that it exceeded the organization’s technical processing capacity.

Budweiser, the sponsor of Cherry’s “Coach’s Corner,” put out a statement condemning Cherry’s comments.

“The comments made Saturday on Coach’s Corner were clearly inappropriate and divisive, and in no way reflect Budweiser’s views,” said Todd Allen, vice president of marketing for Labatt Breweries of Canada, which has Budweiser as one of its brands. “As a sponsor of the broadcast, we immediately expressed our concerns and respect the decision which was made by Sportsnet today.”


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