Poppies 1, Cherry 0

Cherry may have done himself in this time but he was in the wrong.

Cherry commented about the poppy campaign in memory of the fallen who fought in past wars. His criticism was that the poppies were not being worn as much as they should be, particularly by immigrants, a broad and sweeping generalization. Cherry claimed fewer and fewer people were wearing poppies everywhere, especially evident in downtown Toronto and his home area of Mississauga. Cherry again generalized saying that immigrants who use all the services and enjoy the benefits of living in Canada do not reciprocate with a show of their national loyalty. That’s the summary of what he said, the implied message behind his words. Worse, he polarized immigrants with the phrase, “you people.”

Cherry overstepped, gone too far. His generalizations are too sweeping, based on subjective observation. The spirit behind Cherry’s words is that all Canadians must honour those who died in the defense and service of Canada. He is right in the spirit of what he says but he leaves no room for personal acceptance or rejection of his message.

There are a few issues with Cherry’s message.

First, Hockey Night in Canada is not Cherry’s private preserve, not his personal pulpit. The show is about hockey, not politics, not personal agendas. His political commentary was absolutely overstepping , no matter how agreeable it might or might not be.

Second, arguably Ron MacLean demonstrated poor judgement and lack of courage in not responding to Cherry’s commentary immediately. McLean is extremely intelligent and very quick thinking. So, when Cherry made his racist commentary, McLean should have stepped in immediately with the criticism of his colleague. He knew Cherry was in the wrong as seen by the look on his face in the broadcast, but instead of commenting, he sat back and said nothing until a day later.

Is his day later apology an attempt to distance himself from his colleague as quickly as possible in order to save his own career?

Next, a Brampton regional councillor, Gurpreet Singh Dhillon, a Sikh, criticized Cherry as did former premier, Bob Rae. Quick and easy to jump on criticisms of Cherry but where are the constructive suggestions as to what we should be doing about such incidents which seem to occur far more frequently than they should in this day and age?

Ageism imminent
Cherry is 85 years old and some will too easily say that ‘the time is up for the old guy.’ Another example of ageism. His segment of HNIC is one of the most popular parts of the show. Instead of firing him, CBC/Sportsnet should explore ways to extend his show. Consider how to mitigate his commentaries with a reviewing team and a delayed broadcast to examine the comments. It may smack of censorship but….Cherry arguably speaks for many Canadians with his gripes about immigrants. Instead of canning the senior, find ways to continue his performances…but more importantly, consider how his demographic can be educated and taught to eliminate their racist bigotry. 

Racist bigotry
Should Don Cherry be the issue here or should it be the bigger picture of racist bigotry in Canada? Jagmeet Singh proved that minorities can rise above the bias against them as people learn more and are exposed to those minorities. Shouldn’t we be working to uniting Canada instead of bashing one old grump for his racism?

MacLean apologized, thus redeeming himself. Cherry was wrong in what he said. Now it remains to be seen what he will do? His fans await with trumpets blaring; his opponents do too, with sabres rattling.

ADDENDUM: Breaking newsDon Cherry fired by Rogers Sportsnet [ Nov. 11, 2019 ) It is no surprise, Cherry was terminated as a Sportsnet commentator. What faster way could they save more than $750,000 a year. Maybe, with Ron MacLean being let go also, they save more than a million dollars a year and look good in doing so to those who oppose racial bigotry.

Ageism and greed
Cherry’s show was costing Rogers Sportnet more than a million dollars a year. Firing Cherry and cancelling the show is an efficient way to save a lot of money but just consider the underlying factors and ask yourself why would the network be so eager to eliminate Cherry. To fire him outright without this ‘god-given-issue’ would have smacked of ageism, after all Cherry is over 85. So what possible acceptable excuse could they find to rid themselves of this costly expense. 

The more serious disappointment in this whole incident is that no one, no corporation, no institution, no government body is tackling the real problem behind this Cherry incident, real bigotry and racism. The first step would have been to give Cherry a chance to redeem himself, if he chose to do so. The second, but more important step would have been for the governments, provincial and federal, to step in and examine why we are still so racially prejudiced against minorities. Or perhaps Cherry’s termination really is a prime example of government and corporate commitment to equality and universality. There may be some hidden chapters to this story but on the surface it looks like bigotry loses this battle for just reasons.


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