Celebrity Hockey commentator Don Cherry is facing backlash for saying immigrants not wearing poppies on Remembrance Day don't respect for WWI soldiers. His employer apologized amid calls for him to be fired.
Speaking on CBC's Coach's Corner sports commentary show on Saturday, Cherry lamented the fact that he sees fewer people wearing poppies ahead of Remembrance Day in Toronto to honor fallen Canadian soldiers. He went on to single out those he believed only recently came to Canada to "enjoy its way of life" while supposedly having little respect for its sacrifices.
"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 while his co-host Ron MacLean nodded to his words. "These guys paid for your way of life that you enjoy in Canada, these guys paid the biggest price."
His comment immediately sparked online fury as people on social media branded it "anti-immigrant" and "racist." Some people just did not mince any words as the lambasted Cherry's comment as "disgusting xenophobia" while calling the man himself "ignorant old racist."
Many people also turned to Twitter to disprove Cherry's point and show that the people of immigrant background actually do honor the fallen soldiers. Others also argued that the commentator completely left out the sacrifices made by people from former British colonies during the two world wars, whose descendants now live in Canada.
There was also no shortage of politicians and media personalities, who joined the debate all shaming Cherry for what he said. The Canadian Army posted pictures of soldiers from other corners of the world, who "fought for the chance to give their lives for Canada" in response while the National Hockey League issued a statement saying that Cherry's comments were "contrary to the values" they believe in.
Some people still expressed their support for the commentator by saying that there was truth in his words or that he should at least have a right to express his opinion freely.
Eventually, the Twitterstorm was so fierce that Sportsnet, a Canadian sports broadcaster employing Cherry, issued an apology, adding that they "have spoken with Don about the severity of this issue." This response, however, was deemed insufficient by many on Twitter, who demanded the commentator to be fired.
The outspoken 85-year-old, who is arguably one of the most recognizable Canadian media personalities, is no stranger to controversy. In 2004, he faced an investigation by the Official Languages Commissioner after infuriating the French Canadians with a rant aimed at hockey players wearing visors. Cherry argued they have less respect for player safety, adding that most of them "are Europeans and French guys."Also on rt.com The rainbow poppy? No, thanks. I'll wear the red one to remember EVERYONE who gave their lives
In April 1998, he denounced Quebecers as "whiners", causing Bell Canada in Quebec to pull its ads on his TV show. The man was previously known for his repeated cavils aimed at the French-speaking Canadians living in Quebec. Later, he also turned his anger on those he called "left-wing bleeding hearts" or the agents of "political correctness."
Yet, despite all his rants, the commentator managed to stay afloat for decades. Time will tell whether he would manage to get away with it this time.
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