TORONTO – Sportsnet says Don Cherry will be immediately stepping down from Hockey Night in Canada, after comments he made on Saturday night’s Coach’s Corner about newcomers to Canada not wearing poppies sparked backlash.
A statement released by Sportsnet said following discussions with Cherry, “it has been decided it is the right time for him to immediately step down.”
Bart Yabsley, the president of Sportsnet, thanked Cherry for his contributions to hockey and sports broadcasting in Canada. “Don is synonymous with hockey and has played an integral role in growing the game over the past 40 years,” his statement said.
The move follows what the organization calls Cherry’s “divisive remarks that do not represent our values or what we stand for,” made during Saturday’s broadcast.
The 85-year-old said that he’s less frequently seeing people wearing poppies to honour fallen Canadian soldiers – and he singled out those he believes are immigrants in Toronto, prompting a swift online backlash.
“You people,” Cherry said, referring to immigrants, “you love our way of life, you love our milk and honey,” but, he said, immigrants don’t appear to be wearing poppies.
He made his comment prior to running an annual Remembrance Day video, where he is seen walking through a military cemetery in France visiting the graves of Canadian soldiers who went to battle in the First World War.
Ron MacLean, who was in the Coach’s Corner segment with Cherry on Saturday, apologized during the opening remarks of Hometown Hockey on Sportsnet the next evening.
“I owe you an apology too. That is the big thing that I want to emphasize. I sat there, did not catch it and did not respond,” said MacLean.
The hashtags #firedoncherry and #DonCherryMustGo were trending on social media in the wake of his comments and prompted several politicians, including Toronto Mayor John Tory, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, and Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan to speak out.
The NHL also issued a statement on Sunday, calling the comments “offensive and contrary to the values we believe in” in a brief statement.
The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council also posted on its website Sunday that it would be unable to accept any further complaints as the number received concerning the Coach’s Corner broadcast had exceeded its technical processing capacities.
Rogers Media, a subsidiary of Rogers Communications, is the parent company of Sportsnet, and also owns this website and station.