TORONTO – We all make mistakes. But a mistake can be magnified when you’re a celebrity and you say something that is incorrect. Toronto Maple Leafs’ goaltender Jonathan Bernier learned that this weekend when he said former South African President Nelson Mandela was one of his favourite athletes.
“He is one of the most known athletes in the world and a lot of impact in any kind of sport that he did. Even playing hockey, everyone knows him. From being the type of person he was off the ice and on the ice. But you know he changed a lot while he was with us. He’s a tremendous guy.”
Nelson Mandela, an anti-apartheid revolutionary and Nobel Peace Prize winner was honoured before Friday’s Toronto Raptor’s game. It was a special tribute game on the first anniversary of his passing. Several sports icons including Earvin “Magic” Johnson, Charles Barkley, Michael “Pinball” Clemons, Brendan Shanahan and Damon Allen attended. The “Giant of Africa” event held a reception and panel discussion before Friday’s game to talk about Mandela’s legacy and his contribution to sport.
A montage of celebrity clips from the red carpet, including Bernier’s comment, was posted on the Raptor’s website Saturday morning. Shortly after, it was removed, but not before the Twitterverse had a chance to respond.
Bernier offered apologized after Saturday’s game, that saw the Leafs take a 5-2 victory over the Vancouver Canucks,
“I’m embarrassed. I didn’t mean to offend him, his legacy. I got flustered with the red carpet and I was nervous. I think everyone makes mistakes and that was me that night,” according to a report in The Toronto Star.
Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment would not comment on the incident, but referred to his apology.
Proceeds from the Friday evening event went to the Nelson Mandela Foundation and Masai Ujiri’s non-profit organization, Giants of Africa – A charity that helps enrich the lives of children in Africa, which is why Bernier was there.
“Any cause for children, I’m always up for it,” Bernier said. “You know I think it’s a great cause tonight. If we can help kids moving forward around the world. I’m always going to be there.”