By ROB GILLIES
TORONTO (AP) — Don Cherry, Canada’s most polarizing, flamboyant and opinionated hockey commentator, was fired on Nov. 11 for calling immigrants “you people’’ in a television rant in which he said new immigrants are not honoring the country’s fallen soldiers.
Rogers Sportsnet President Bart Yabsley announced the decision in a statement 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. “During the broadcast, he made divisive remarks that do not represent our values or what we stand for.’’
Cherry derided immigrants by 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,’’ Cherry said in a Nov. 9 broadcast. “These guys paid for your way of life that you enjoy in Canada, these guys paid the biggest price.’’
The tradition of wearing poppies in Canada honors the country’s war dead on Remembrance Day, which was observed on Nov. 11.
Cherry has provided commentary following the first intermission of “Hockey Night in Canada’’ for more than three decades.
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.
“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.’’
Cherry has not apologized for his remarks. Longtime segment co-host Ron MacLean apologized. MacLean didn’t object to Cherry’s remarks during the broadcast and gave Cherry a thumbs-up during the broadcast.
“I know what I said and I meant it. Everybody in Canada should wear a poppy to honor our fallen soldiers,’’ Cherry told the Toronto Sun newspaper. No explanation was provided for his “you people’’ comment.
The Canadian Broadcasting Standards Council said it was so overloaded with complaints about the segment that it exceeded the organization’s technical processing capacity.
Cherry’s remarks prompted Canadian Defense Minister Harjit Sajjan, who is Sikh, and Toronto Mayor John Tory to say that Cherry’s remarks were wrong. Tory said Cherry was “way off base to question the devotion of newer Canadians.’’
Before beginning his life in front of the camera in 1980, Cherry was a rugged defenseman and career minor leaguer. He played all of one game in the NHL—a playoff game with the Boston Bruins, with whom he won coach of the year honors in 1976.
His presence on “Hockey Night in Canada’’ hasn’t been the only contentious part of the broadcast. Chinese technology giant Huawei is a major sponsor and its red fan-shaped logo is plastered prominently on the set.
The cheery corporate message contrasts with the standoff over the arrest in Canada of Huawei Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou on a U.S. warrant. In apparent retaliation, China detained two Canadians and plans to execute a third— heavy-handed tactics that give Huawei’s sponsorship a surreal quality on “Hockey Night in Canada.’’