What do you mean, you people?
That’s the issue with the immigrant comments that got longtime hockey commentator Don Cherry fired on Monday. As a general rule, it’s probably a bad idea to use that phrase when doing an off-the-cuff mini rant that takes place on live television.
Maybe he was speaking specifically to immigrants of color, or maybe he wasn’t. There are, of course, people who migrate to Canada who look like Cherry, minus the ‘unique’ fashion sense, so only he really truly knows whether there was a racial component to his pseudo-tirade.
The heart of the message had to do with “Remembrance Day,” which is a non-U.S. holiday celebrated in Canada, Australia, the UK, and a number of other countries that were once part of the British Empire. The poppy symbolizes military lives lost in the line of duty, typically in the form of a pin that is sold by veterans groups. You’ll also see poppy wreaths laid at memorials, not dissimilar to the way U.S. Presidents or other dignitaries attend various services on our Memorial Day, which takes place in May instead of November.
So Cherry was basically complaining that Ontario migrants don’t wear the poppy, which then turned into him saying 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.”
It’s a pro-military and pro-Canada message that was delivered very poorly. As a courtesy, I’ve re-written the rant for Don Cherry, and it goes like this:
Remembrance Day is coming up this Monday, and I’d just like to take a moment to offer my gratitude to all of the military men and women who died serving this country. We enjoy freedoms that other people don’t have, and I think it’s important for all Canadians to remember the service members who made the ultimate sacrifice in order to preserve our way of life.
There. That’s it. A producer could have put that on the teleprompter and he could have read it verbatim.
If he did something like that, instead of singling out Toronto migrants or using the term “you people,” he’d still have a job. I’m actually stunned he lasted as long as he did, since he has a history of saying things that we’d describe as ‘politically incorrect,’ especially in this day and age.
These two passages were written a 1993 edition of Sports Illustrated, if you can believe it:
HE KNOWS THE END WILL COME SOMEDAY. Maybe someday soon. Maybe tonight. He is pushing, pushing, pushing the limits too far, saying too much. One final piece of outrage will bubble from Don Cherry’s high-volume mouth, and that will be that. Ka-boom! He will self-destruct in full public view, the carnage strewn across the living rooms of an entire country, from the Maritimes to British Columbia. Ka-boom!
It is a problem. The best things he says are the worst things he says. The danger is everything. The danger is the attraction for the public. What next? What will he do? He always is one F word, one outrage away from extinction. What will he do? He holds on to the stick of dynamite and watches the wick burn shorter and shorter. This is his 11th season. He cannot let go as the inevitable approaches. Ka-boom!
Turns out the “inevitable” didn’t happen until 26 years later.