Iconic Canadian broadcaster Don Cherry was fired from his job with Sportsnet this week after using his “Coach’s Corner” segment to encourage immigrants to honor fallen troops. Cherry was apparently upset that a diminishing number of people in the Toronto area wear the traditional poppy pins to commemorate Canada’s Remembrance Day. He (not unreasonably) connected this drop off in traditional observance to the increasing number of immigrants in the area. Here’s how he put it:
“You people love — you, that come here, whatever it is — you love our way of life, you love our milk and honey. At least you could pay a couple of bucks for poppies or something like that. These guys paid for your way of life, that you enjoy in Canada.”
The worst thing you could possibly say about these comments is that they’re a little bit gruff. But Don Cherry is 85 years old and 85-year-old men have earned the right to be gruff. Other than this lack of diplomacy, there is nothing remotely offensive or bigoted in his point of view on this issue. He isn’t telling immigrants not to come to Canada. He isn’t saying they are inferior to, or less than, himself. He certainly isn’t saying anything “racist,” as USA Today matter-of-factly put it. He doesn’t mention race at all and could just as easily be talking about immigrants from a mostly white country. His only point, it seems to me, is to lament a perceived deficit of patriotism and gratitude.
Of course, we live in a time when the only thing more lacking than patriotism is fortitude, so everyone associated with Cherry immediately threw him under the bus and prostrated themselves before the outrage mob. The president of Sportsnet, Bart Yablsey (a fitting name, somehow), announced Cherry’s firing while publicly scolding him for “divisive remarks” that “do not represent our values.”
The NHL chimed in with its own bit of finger-wagging, accusing Cherry of saying things “that are in direct conflict with the values of diversity and inclusion that we embrace as pillars of the sport.” Hockey used to be a game where rough men got their teeth knocked out. Now the National Hockey League delivers lectures on “inclusion.” We are truly living in “Idiocracy,” except everyone has lost their spines as well as their brains.
Speaking of spineless, Cherry’s longtime co-host, Ron MacLean, who sat and nodded while Cherry was making these comments, tried desperately to keep his job by knifing his friend in the back. MacLean, doing his best to pretend that he understands why people are upset about this nonsense, called Cherry’s remarks “hurtful, discriminatory” and “flat-out wrong.” He even thanked the whiney masses for “calling Don and me on that” and teaching them a “great lesson.” Then his skin turned translucent and he morphed into a literal jellyfish on live TV.
I think there are two points to be made about all of this.
First, Don Cherry was correct. It is indeed important to inculcate patriotism and gratitude in all citizens. As for immigrants, it is their responsibility to assimilate themselves to their new country and show a proper respect for the traditions of their adopted home. Cherry’s point is a good one: If you’re immigrating to a country in order to enjoy its freedoms and luxuries, you should appreciate that many people had to die in order to provide you that opportunity. If there is not enough appreciation for that fact, who should we be scolding — Don Cherry, or the people who made his comments necessary in the first place?
Second, let’s pretend for a moment that Don Cherry’s comments really were “hurtful” and “discriminatory,” like his aquatic broadcasting partner claims. Could they possibly be more hurtful and discriminatory than a blackface costume? And if they don’t “represent the values” of Canadians, then does a man who wore blackface multiple times represent them?
The hypocrisy is so blatant that it probably doesn’t need to be pointed out, but I will anyway. There was so much outrage in Canada over opinions expressed by a television host that the host was fired. Yet the prime minister of the country wore blackface and still won re-election. Of course, we Americans have no room to gloat. Megyn Kelly was fired from her job at NBC just for talking about blackface.
It just goes to show that these faux-racism outrages are political and performative. Calling the outrage mob “sensitive” or “snowflakes” misses the point and gives them too much credit. They aren’t sensitive — they’re just frauds.