Canadian Hockey Broadcaster Don Cherry Was Fired After A Rant About Immigrants

Following widespread outrage stemming from a segment where he criticized people, specifically immigrants, for not properly honoring Canadian armed forces, legendary hockey broadcaster Don Cherry was fired by Sportsnet on Monday. Cherry is a former NHL coach turned broadcaster who had long been known for his bombastic intermission reports on CBC (and later Sportsnet) during Hockey Night In Canada broadcasts.

On Saturday night, he sparked anger when he ranted about how he no longer sees many Canadians wearing plastic poppies during the month of November. The comments were directed at immigrants he felt didn’t properly respect veterans for their sacrifices. It’s customary in Canada to wear a red poppy on coats and shirts during November as a way to remember fallen soldiers, a common sight on coaches rinkside and on hockey broadcasts.

Using the phrase “you people,” Cherry was critical of those he feels “love our milk and honey” despite not honoring veterans.

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

Cherry is known for bombastic statements and jingoism, but a clear attack on immigrants, especially perceived as one on people of color, was not well received by the greater hockey world. On Sunday, Sportsnet denounced Cherry’s comments after the initial outcry and issued an apology on behalf of Cherry.

The NHL itself also criticized the statements, which were widely seen as calling out immigrants and, as Cherry has widely criticized before, basically anyone who doesn’t look like him.

Ron MacLean, Cherry’s longtime broadcast partner who seemed to initially cosign Cherry’s comments, also issued an apology for the remarks and how he handled himself.

Cherry has a long history of jingoistic rants under his very colorful belt. He’s long targeted Russian (or any non-Canadian) hockey players and many critics have denounced similar comments over the years. But Cherry is a Canadian hockey legend, and has real support among fans who see nothing wrong with what he said about “you people.”

But Sportsnet fired Cherry on Monday, ending a long career where the suits he wore and the tone of his yelling were given more scrutiny than the words he was actually saying.

Cherry’s statements didn’t use any slurs but are typical of many of his rants over the years. He’s decried the changing landscape of modern Canadian cities, which have diversified considerably and taken to watching other sports while embracing more liberal politics.

His firing came, even to those critical of Cherry, as a shock because of the support he’s gotten despite everything that came before Saturday’s comments. This is basically who Cherry has been his entire career, but the modern broadcast landscape is far different than one where Cherry’s comments would only be seen in Canada and other border hockey markets like Buffalo and Detroit. Video of Cherry’s rant hit social media on Saturday and drew criticism from all over the league and sports community as a whole, even if they aren’t familiar with Cherry’s past work.

In the end it wasn’t any of those past comments that got him fired, but a final segment in which he showed the world who he’s been all along.