Don Cherry is refusing to apologize for his controversial rant about new immigrants not wearing poppies, saying he could have kept his job as co-host of Coach’s Corner if he’d agreed to become “a tame robot who nobody would recognize.”
Sportsnet has cut ties with the longtime co-host of the Hockey Night in Canada segment, saying in a statement that following discussions with Cherry, it was decided it was the “right time for him to immediately step down.”
Cherry told the Canadian Press in an interview that he meant what he said when he made the remarks on Saturday night and still says everybody in Canada should wear a poppy to honour fallen soldiers.
He says he wasn’t directing his comments to minorities and that what he said applies to English, Scottish or Irish immigrants or any newcomer.
In his remarks on Saturday, Cherry singled out new immigrants in Toronto and Mississauga, Ont., where he lives, for not wearing poppies.
“You people that come here… whatever it is, you love our way of life, you love our milk and honey, at least you could pay a couple of bucks for a poppy,” he said on Saturday.
He says he doesn’t have any immediate plans and adds he’s receiving many phone calls and texts of support.
But Steven Purewal, a historian who has long researched the contribution and sacrifice of Indian soldiers during the First World War, told Global B.C. on Monday it was wrong for Cherry to suggest immigrants don’t support Canadian veterans, noting the broadcaster has no way of knowing who’s an immigrant and who was born in Canada.
“It endorses a stereotype that the immigrant is somehow unpatriotic, is thankless about the sacrifices it took to build the country,” he said.
“Firings and apologies don’t always work, because what they don’t do is tell the whole story … What we need to be telling Canadians is that many, many diverse communities fought in the Great War and the Second World War. Without their contributions, we wouldn’t have the freedoms we have today.”
Cherry’s dismissal has been viewed as divisive by Canadians, with many advocating for the former hockey host’s return.
A Change.org petition called “Bring Back Don Cherry!” amassed over 77,000 signatures in less than 24 hours.
“Don Cherry is a Canadian icon and a symbol of the working class,” the petition reads. “He may be politically incorrect and may not have been as careful as he should have in his remarks, but his offence does not warrant firing.”
— With files from Emerald Bensadoun and Sean Boynton