Don Cherry fired by Sportsnet

Don Cherry and Ron MacLean, seen here in the Nov. 2, 2019 Coach’s Corner segment. (Sportsnet.ca)

It’s official. Don Cherry has been fired by Sportsnet.

“Sports brings people together – it unites, not divides us,” said a statement issued at noon PT from Sportsnet President Bart Yabsley. “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 or values or what we stand for.”

“Don is synonymous with hockey and has played an integral role in growing the game over the past 40 years. We would like to thank Don for his contributions to hockey and sports broadcasting in Canada,” Yabsley continued.

Cherry, 85, has been hosting intermission segment Coach’s Corner during Hockey Night in Canada (HNIC) broadcasts since 1982. His release follows a rant during the Nov. 9 Coach’s Corner in which he referred to new immigrants as “you people” in expressing his disappointment that more Canadians aren’t wearing the poppy in remembrance of veterans.

The segment resulted in so many complaints to the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council that the independent broadcast watchdog announced Monday its system was overwhelmed and it could no longer process any more.

As far as what might replace Coach’s Corner going forward, Andrew Garas, Director of Communications for Sportsnet, told Broadcast Dialogue in an email that the network “is still considering options” for the first HNIC intermission segment.

Nicknamed “Grapes” for his tough talking, outspoken style, Cherry had a long American Hockey League playing career before going on to coach in the NHL.

Saturday’s rant is just the latest in a series of controversial statements Cherry has made in the past. They range from a 2004 Coach’s Corner comment on visor users having less respect for player safety, in which he asserted that “Most of the guys that wear them are Europeans and French guys.” The statement drew the ire of the Francophone community and triggered an investigation by the Official Languages Commissioner. Cherry was later vindicated by the results of a study that showed there were a greater number of European and French visor users.

Cherry courted controversy again in Dec. 2010 when he wore pink to the inaugural meeting of Toronto City Council under Mayor Rob Ford, where he stated “I’m wearing pink for all the pinkos out there that ride bicycles and everything…I say he’s gonna be the greatest mayor this city has ever, ever seen, as far as I’m concerned! And put that in your pipe, you left-wing kooks.” 

As recently as last year, Cherry has also denied the existence of climate change on the broadcast.


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