Anyone in Canada and hockey lovers elsewhere in the world know who Don Cherry is. By now you have probably heard that he was fired from his Coaches’ Corner role in Hockey Night in Canada by Sportsnet for his comments during last Saturday night’s NHL game.
The rant went like this…“You people … you love our way of life, you love our milk and honey, at least you can pay a couple bucks for a poppy or something like that. These guys paid for your way of life that you enjoy in Canada, these guys paid the biggest price.”
Many people found the comments discriminatory, divisive, racist, and over the top. Even though he never said the word “immigrants” that’s who it was assumed he was referring to. To me, the people offended by the so-called racist remarks are the worst racists. If Cherry had backtracked, confessing to merely defending veterans and what they stand for, his rant might have been swallowed more smoothly. Instead, he stuck by his words.
Others (those with thicker skin who are harder to offend) feel that he was indeed just defending veterans and voicing his opinion. We do live in a nation where freedom of speech is accepted don’t we? Don Cherry has always been (on and off the show) supportive of veterans, even visiting them overseas. Although his cohort Ron McLean gave a thumbs up at the end of Cherry’s rant, McLean was quick to apologize when the complaints started piling in, some say throwing Cherry under the bus.
We should remember too that Don Cherry is 85 years old. It is not unfathomable that Canadians (and others around the world) of that era might be more sensitive to the sacrifices veterans made (and current soldiers continue to make) for their country.
I was not directly affected by war. I do have vague memories of older relatives and heard stories of ancestors that were though. My children and grandchildren don’t have these memories though. We try to explain the horrific times, especially around Remembrance Day, but I have to admit the memories are just not there and so hard to envision. That doesn’t mean we don’t wear a poppy every November or don’t respect those that have “paid the price” as Don Cherry said. My parents taught me otherwise. Like Don Cherry, they had the memories. Some people never had that respect instilled into them.
Freedom of Speech
Although speaking his mind is Cherry’s claim to fame, especially in the hockey world, it appears that these days (especially in some media, CBC in particular) you have to choose your words very carefully. Reprimanded for his choice of words many times recently, some claim that was his charm on Coach’s Corner. Once again I think that goes with advanced age. The older we get the less we care what others think of us and our opinions. Unless we need the paycheck. In that case, we turn the thumbs up to thumbs down and apologize to those we (possibly may have) offended.
The fact that he never apologized for the wording of this rant was his (final) downfall. After all, one politician, in particular, often makes insensitive, foolish, politically incorrect errors in judgment. But he gets away with it because he apologizes (charmingly and sheepishly) when called on his actions, regardless of how he really feels. Don Cherry does not have the acting skills necessary to do that. Nor does he care to or should he have to!
So much for freedom of speech!