There has been widespread reaction in our region about the decision to let Hockey Night in Canada Don Cherry go.
His controversial comments which Sportsnet has called “offensive” and “discriminatory” cost the Canadian icon his job.
“You people love, that come here, whatever it is, you love our way of life, you love our milk and honey,” he said Saturday night. “At least you can pay a couple of bucks for a poppy or something like that.”
Sportsnet announced Monday Cherry would be immediately stepping down.
“The comments are definitely inappropriate, they are discriminatory and they are targeting a certain category of people,” says Myriam Mekni, the executive director of the Multicultural Association of the greater Moncton area.
She says everybody is entitled to their opinion in our free country, but says there needs to be a conversation about discrimination, racism, acceptance and inclusion.
“I certainly hope that my clients don’t see the video for example, or those comments, because it can come across as offensive,” says Mekni. “But what I’m saying is it does not reflect what the country as a whole actually thinks.”
Cherry has told Global News he stands by what he said, adding everybody should wear a poppy to honour fallen soldiers. He also said he could have kept his job if he agreed to become “a tame robot who nobody would recognize.”
A St. Thomas University professor who has studied Coach’s Corner knows Cherry has always been an outspoken and controversial character, but says these comments were “not surprising… offensive, racist, xenophobic” and “divisive.”
“I can’t say why this would have been the final straw for (Sportsnet), I’m frankly surprised it took so long to have this happen,” Kristi Allain told Global News in a phone interview from Peterborough, Ont. “I can only imagine, I think one of the important things to ask has Cherry been so popular?”
“Regardless of how one feels about the poppies, our goal in hockey is to encourage newcomers to participate and to get enrollment up in the sport,” says Cheryl MacDonald, a sports sociologist based in Halifax.
While there’s already been plenty of speculation about a replacement, MacDonald says it’s an important decision in Sportnet’s hands.
“I think that there will be a lot of calls to have a woman, especially,” she says. “I think it wouldn’t hurt to have a person of colour in that position.”
A petition to ‘Bring back Don Cherry!’ has garnered more than 112,000 signatures as of Tuesday evening.
Peter Colwell, a Moncton resident, was one of those who signed it.
“I don’t feel it was directed at newcomers or even any specific person or group of people,” he says. “I think it was just a general ‘you people,’ and that could be me or you.”
“He’s always been controversial,” he says. “I don’t think he did it to offend anybody, I don’t think there was any malicious intent.”