'I'm not backing down': Cherry not apologizing, admits to poor choice of words
TORONTO -- A day after being fired for suggesting immigrants don’t wear poppies, hockey broadcaster Don Cherry isn’t apologizing, but wishes he had chosen different words to illustrate his opinion.
Cherry was fired Monday, after nearly 40 years of working the first intermission broadcast of “Hockey Night in Canada,” following the fallout from Saturday night’s show.
"You people … that come here, whatever it is, 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," he said during the show. "These guys paid for your way of life that you enjoy in Canada, these guys paid the biggest price."
In an interview with CTV News’ Omar Sachedina on Tuesday, the 85-year-old Cherry said Sportsnet “absolutely buried” him with the sudden firing, but added that he wasn’t going to apologize for the comments.
“I was taught never to back down and I'm not backing down now,” he said. “If I got to go out, I'm going out the way I said it and the way I mean it. I'm not going to be a phony.”
Cherry does admit, however, he would’ve chosen his words differently if given the choice.
“I wish I had used something else besides ‘you people,’” he said. “I think I would've said: ‘Everybody else. Everybody should be wearing poppy,’ instead of you people.”
Cherry added his comments weren’t’ meant to single out minorities.
“It could have been Irish, it could have been Scotch, it could have been anybody.”
Cherry said Sportsnet offered to let him keep his job, provided he agreed to a set of conditions that included remaining quiet for two days. Sportsnet said it has nothing further to add.
Cherry’s remarks, the latest in a decades-long string of controversial comments, were widely criticized. The Canada Broadcast Standards Council issued a plea on Monday for people to stop reporting the comments, as the agency had already received more complaints than it was able to process.
The statements were also panned by long-time co-host Ron MacLean, who is seen nodding and giving a thumbs-up during the segment. MacLean apologized during a broadcast the next day for intervening during the show.
Cherry suggested MacLean’s comments on Sunday felt like a betrayal.
“I thought we were both in it together,” he said. “I was disappointed in him, but he's still a friend.”
Cherry has occasionally attracted controversy for deriding Europeans, French-Canadians and people who ride bicycles. Given his pervious comments on French-Canadians, Quebec Premier Francois Legault said Cherry’s firing was a long-time coming.
“I am happy that he’s not at Sportsnet anymore,” he said. “I will be able now to watch hockey games on the English channel, because I won't have to support Don Cherry.”
With files from CTVNews.ca Writer Ryan Flanagan