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Rick Zamperin: Don Cherry paid the price for his controversial comments

Hockey commentator Don Cherry has been fired by Sportsnet over his latest controversial comments.
Hockey commentator Don Cherry has been fired by Sportsnet over his latest controversial comments. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darren Calabrese

Like it or not, Saturday night will never be the same.

Sportsnet fired controversial hockey commentator Don Cherry Monday for his rant during Coach’s Corner on Saturday night when he criticized newcomers to Canada for not buying poppies and supporting our veterans.

“You people that come here, you love our way of life, you love our milk and honey, at least you can pay a couple of bucks for poppies or something like that,” said Cherry. “These guys paid for your way of life that you enjoy in Canada.”

READ MORE: Don Cherry out as host of ‘Coach’s Corner’ following poppy controversy

In a statement, Sportsnet said, “Sports brings people together — it unites us, not divides us. Following further discussions with Don Cherry after Saturday Night’s broadcast, it has been decided it is the right time for him to immediately step down. During the broadcast, he made divisive remarks that do not represent our values or what we stand for.”

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The 85-year-old’s outburst sparked a swift backlash from the public, politicians and the National Hockey League.

Even Canadian military leaders who attended Remembrance Day ceremonies Monday denounced the comments.

READ MORE: Don Cherry firing doesn’t solve problem his poppy comments highlighted, WWI historian says

I think we all understand what Cherry was trying to say — buy a poppy and support our veterans — but to publicly shame newcomers to Canada for not wearing a poppy was uncalled for.

‘We were wrong:’ Ron MacLean apologizes for Don Cherry’s comments on Hockey Night in Canada
‘We were wrong:’ Ron MacLean apologizes for Don Cherry’s comments on Hockey Night in Canada

While I think Sportsnet’s decision was heavy-handed, it is clear that the public pressure and potential loss of sponsorship revenue led to the decision.

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I find it ironic that veterans fought for our freedom, and freedom of speech, but Cherry — a staunch supporter of our military — ultimately fell on his sword over that very right.