Why Don Cherrys you people rant on Hockey Night in Canada has such an impact – Global News

Why Don Cherrys you people rant on Hockey Night in Canada has such an impact - Global News
It was a mistake, says Don Cherry of the words that got him fired
Since 1986, Don Cherry had been a host on Coach’s Corner, known mostly for his colourful matching suits and language. That all changed on Saturday night, however, following televised remarks in which the longtime host said “you people that come here” dont wear poppies or support veterans.

You people that 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, the host said, later receiving a near-speechless thumbs-up from his co-host, Ron MacLean, in response.

The big thing is, I shouldve said — if I had come through, if I had been smart and protected myself — I shouldve said everybody should be wearing a poppy. Like I went downtown Toronto — fair enough at the whole thing — its the two words, you people, as you know people are very sensitive like that. They got me, Cherry told Carlson, who openly empathized with the former Coachs Corner co-host and called his critics fascist.

Video: Don Cherry isnt apologizing for comments on Canadian newcomers

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I offered to come on, and put out a note, he said, according to Michael Talbot and Adrian Ghobrial of CityNews. But it wasnt enough and they wanted me to do more and I wasnt prepared to do it, its that simple… I couldve had my job back if I agreed to do those things and I said No.

Cherry, who initially refused to apologize for his controversial rant and said he could have kept his job as co-host of Coachs Corner if hed agreed to become a tame robot who nobody would recognize, has since told Global News that, given the chance, he would have chosen his words differently.

Many Canadians were quick to come to the defence of those who immigrated, condemning the divisive nature of Cherry’s remarks.

Ammar Naseer, 34, a product financial manager in Toronto whose family immigrated from Pakistan to Toronto when he was 15 years old, purchased all the poppies at his local Loblaws and handed them out for free in Mississauga, Ont., a community known for its large immigrant population.

“It’s easy to blame people,” said Naseer. “When we use the words ‘you people,’ that seems to isolate classes of people. That seems to be divisive for society, and it really is hurtful.“

“It’s not only just people who immigrated here themselves but also people whose parents may have come here, people who are visible minorities who are not necessarily even immigrants, who feel the divisiveness and the undertone that ‘you people’ signifies.”

Coach cornered as viewers decide he went too far

Naseer said he noticed a decline in the number of stores in his neighbourhood selling poppies and made a case for alternative ways of showing solidarity with Canadian troops.

“Maybe we need to work towards better solutions which can show solidarity or social signalling,” he said.

Video: Don Cherry on what he meant by you people in divisive poppy comments

Noor Youssef, 15, a cadet sergeant with the Canadian Armed Forces, called specific points of Cherry’s rant “unfair.” 

Cherrys remarks were roundly criticized by politicians across Canada including Toronto Mayor John Tory and NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh. The National Hockey League also weighed in, saying the comments made last night were offensive and contrary to the values we believe in.

The veteran sportscaster — who lost his job with Sportsnet on Monday for his remarks about immigrants not wearing poppies — says his dismissal all came down to poor phrasing. 

Video: Don Cherry admits he should have used different words

During the Coach's Corner segment on Saturday, Cherry said of immigrants: "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.

Don Cherry says he wont apologize for his divisive comments about new immigrants not wearing poppies, but the former co-host of Coachs Corner says if he could do it again, he would have chosen different words.

"These guys paid for your way of life that you enjoy in Canada, these guys paid the biggest price."

"The CBC for a very long time made a lot of money from Don Cherry, and so did Sportsnet for a time," he said, despite the fact that "no one, for the last almost 20 years … has been able to control Don Cherry and what he says."

On Tuesday, Cherry told CBC, "I think using the two words 'you people,' I think that had to do it," referring to his dismissal.

Cherry added that his many good deeds — he mentioned helping Montreal Canadiens forward Max Domi with the launch of his book on growing up with diabetes — are being overshadowed by his word choice.

"Don's bigotry used to be a kind of a hockey bigotry," he said. "It was 'chicken Swedes.' It was 'untrustworthy Russians'. It was even [insults about] French Canadians."

"Not a word was said about that, but you used two words and that's where it goes," said Cherry.

When his parents first came to Canada, "they were the generation that were just trying to survive, make ends meet and had to turn the other cheek," he told The Current's interim host Laura Lynch.

"I think it was a mistake," he said. But I think the big thing was that I should have said 'everybody' — that was the big, big thing."

"They were far and away saying, 'Good riddance, we're glad that this time is over with Don Cherry because of what he's been saying over the last five to 10 years,'" she said.

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On Wednesday, Ron MacLean, Cherry's co-host on Coach's Corner, told the CBC he would be on this Saturday's broadcast of Hockey Night in Canada, but declined further comment until then.

"They didn't have the benefit and the privilege that I have right now to be able to have a platform and be able to speak out on these types of issues and call them out for what they are."

"I am not saying anything yet to the subject right now," MacLean said on Wednesday. "I have to have these days to make sure I'm right in what I say this weekend. To think about all that is going on and process it. And that's where I'm at. And I'll leave it at that."

On an NHL broadcast on Sunday, MacLean did apologize for Cherry's remarks and his lack of response.

Domi wouldn't say if he agreed with Sportsnet's decision, but was quick to express admiration for a man he calls a family friend.

It was these same people — you know, the ones who have been used to justify his platform on Hockey Night in Canada since the 1980s — who decided last weekend that, this time, he went too far. The backlash from viewers was swift, with many taking to social media. #FireDonCherry began trending on Twitter and, by Monday, Sportsnet did just that.

"I love Don Cherry. I always have, always will," Domi said on Tuesday after the Habs' morning skate. "He's a big reason why most of us play hockey. We grew up looking up to a guy like that, watching Coach's Corner and stuff. It's unfortunate what happened, it's sad. He's a big part of hockey."

Inevitably, when someone loses their high-profile, high-paying platform for saying something harmful, it is accompanied by lots of talk of "now" and "before" and hand-wringing about all the things we "can’t do now," which is usually just one thing, and that’s "say bigoted things with impunity."

Domi got to know Cherry when his dad, Tie, played in the NHL. Cherry regularly has voiced his support for tough players like Tie, who is third on the NHL's career penalty minutes list.

"I was pretty surprised they fired him," Cousins said. "But obviously you make those comments, it kind of puts them in a tough spot."

Instead of rolling their eyes, or smiling politely, or doing anything else that falls under the banner of that other Canadian sport, Being Nice, the viewers finally stood up to their xenophobic grandpa, and made it clear he’d no longer be welcome in their living rooms.

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"You grow up watching Hockey Night in Canada … every Saturday night he's on there and he's always got a pretty strong opinion on things. Sometimes he crosses the line. Obviously, he crossed the line there a couple nights ago. That's what happens nowadays. So it's tough to see."

Quebec Premier Francois Legault was far more critical — Cherry is "a bit of a clown," he said in an interview on Quebec City radio station FM 98.9.

“I mean that guy’s been around the game for so, so long,” Domi said. “I know him personally. He’s a great guy. His grandson Del was one of my best friends growing up. I’d go over to (Cherry’s daughter) Cindy’s house all the time and became very close … we were family friends. Like I said, it’s unfortunate how everything unfolded. But 85 years old, that’s a heckuva career. He’ll always be remembered as one of the faces of the sport.”

"Effectively, I've often seen him dumping on francophones. Now he's doing it against immigrants … I think he shocks people for the sake of being shocking, for the pleasure of shocking.

I don’t think Cherry believed he would be fired after his “you people” rant Saturday night, accusing immigrants of not buying poppies. Cherry had crossed the line many times before — insulting francophones, First Nations people, European hockey players, and ranting that female reporters don’t belong in NHL locker rooms. Cherry has always refused to apologize for anything he says, standing behind his 85-year-old beliefs and refusing to evolve.

"It was about time someone put him in his place, so I think it's a very good decision from Sportsnet," Legault added. "I'll be able to start watching hockey again in English."

Canadiens head coach Claude Julien had this to say about Cherry: “I’m a big-time supporter of our veterans and people that died for the sake of giving us the freedom that we have today. But at the same time, I’m also a big fan of our league that is trying to tell people that Hockey is for Everyone and we like to include people. In today’s society, I think that’s the direction we have to take.”

In the Toronto Maple Leafs' locker room, meanwhile, the feeling was disappointment, both with Cherry's words on Saturday and the rough finish for a nearly 40-year run on HNIC.

“He’s a big reason why most of us play hockey,” Domi said. “We grew up watching Coach’s Corner and stuff. It’s unfortunate what happened. It’s sad. He’s a big part of hockey. That’s all really we can say, unfortunately, nowadays. But you know what, it’s unfortunate.”

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"I think he's meant a lot to the game and provided a lot," said Leafs captain John Tavares. "[It's] obviously disappointing, what happened and the result. I think everyone would wish something like this didn't happen and didn't come to these types of circumstances."

“If you notice, I never said ‘immigrants,’ I never said anything. I said ‘you people’ and they could have been Scottish, they could have been Irish, they could have been anything, but that’s the way the world is today,” Cherry added. “They listened to those people.”

"I'm not one to weigh into it too much, but what makes Canada great is the equality we have and how diverse our culture is," said Spezza, who was drafted first overall by the Mississauga IceDogs when Cherry was a part-owner of the Ontario Hockey League team in 1999.

"You don't like anything discriminatory that offends anyone, but Don is an icon. You don't like to see things end that way. He was someone that was part of hockey for a long time," he said. 

"He's a legend in the hockey world," Hyman said. "He's been around hockey forever. I grew up watching him on TV. It was cool when he talked about me playing for the first time. That was awesome. But at the end of the day, you can't say stuff like that today."

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The story also was a hot topic in Boston, where Cherry used to coach the Bruins. Current Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy was critical of Cherry's comments.

"Hockey versus politics, I try to stay away from that. I don't agree with what he said," Cassidy said. "I love the fact he was a great coach for the Bruins years ago, love the way the team played. But that's just not the way I think."

Meanwhile, a longtime friend, lawyer and business partner of Cherry's says the native of Kingston, Ont., is "disappointed on a lot of fronts."

Don Cherry speaks out about his firing from Sportsnet | Offside

"He's disappointed that some people he counted on — friends and allies in the media — turned on him at a time of need, and didn't give him support and in fact went out of their way to distance themselves from him," said Trevor Whiffen, a former general manager of the IceDogs and now the governor of the OHL's London Knights.

"Don is an extremely loyal person. Anybody that values loyalty expects loyalty. Don is always disappointed when those around him don't reciprocate."

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