Well the soap box has been kicked from under Don Cherry.
The outspoken 85-year-old has ruffled feathers on Coach’s Corner for the last time. His boisterous delivery style and bold selection of textiles have been water cooler fodder for decades. He’s been known to pontificate controversial remarks in the past, but his outburst on November 9 was the proverbial last straw.
Cherry’s rants are sometimes hard to follow. On Saturday night Cherry’s disjointed dialogue included the phrases “you people”, “they come here” and “you love our way of life, you love our milk and honey”. His diatribe appeared to have been targeted at new Canadians. Cherry then suggested that these “people” should pay a couple of bucks for a poppy to show respect for Canadian veterans.
Cherry’s longtime co-host, sportscaster and host of Hockey Night in Canada Ron MacLean, said he didn’t fully comprehend what Cherry was saying. MacLean has since apologized for not intervening.
Audiences are still divided on who exactly was at the receiving end of the tirade, but Cherry’s employer wasn’t about to probe further. After the segment Sportsnet president Bart Yabsley released the statement: “During the broadcast, he made divisive remarks that do not represent our values or what we stand for.” By Monday afternoon Cherry was fired.
While this isn’t Cherry’s first foray into controversy, this latest assault apparently overloaded the Canadian Broadcasting Standards Council with complaints. The volume exceeded the council’s technical processing capacity and reported that it was no longer able to accept further complaints.
Cherry’s rants have done more than raise eyebrows over the years. In 1989 he referred to Finnish-born Winnipeg Jets assistant coach Alpo Suhonen as “some kind of dog food”. This apparently triggered a lawsuit threat from Jets owner Barry Shenkarow. In 2013 Cherry chided women sports journalists who conducted interviews in player’s dressing rooms. Two years later he made headlines again when he called MacLean a “savage” and “barbarian” for eating seal meat.
The latter comment was interpreted by many as a racial slur aimed at Canada’s Indigenous population. Cherry did apologize in that case, but when probed by Toronto Sun columnist Joe Warmington on his poppy rant Cherry said: “I know what I said and I meant it”.
Cherry's style has always been provocative and edgy. This style, however, no longer fits the public discourse. Society has become more accepting of other cultures, races, religions and ways of life. Society has evolved, Cherry has not.
Supporters of Cherry claim political correctness has eroded the fabric of our country’s culture and somehow bred widespread sensitivities.
Instead, perhaps, society has outgrown Cherry.