Monday, 11 November 2019

My Un-Edited Thoughts About Don Cherry

I can't believe I feel compelled to write about this Don Cherry bullshit but I'm sick and very aggravated with the amount of God's dandruff falling from the sky and I need a distraction so, here goes.

1. Don Cherry was a pretty piss-poor career minor-league hockey player who displayed some marginal coaching skills. He was a middling coach who took an "in their primes" Bobby Orr and Phil Esposito-fronted Bruins team to a Stanley Cup final appearance. ONCE! His coaching career was colourful but largely unremarkable.

2. He was able to parlay that "colourful personality" into a thirty-seven-year gig commenting mostly on hockey, while occasionally veering off into bizarre tangents and rants.

3. His weird-assed suits, strange obsession with his dog, friendships around the league, and penchant for protecting fighting in the game, garnered him an angry but loyal following of like-minded fans who could not ever accept the changes in society, in general, and hockey, in particular.

4. As his appeal grew, so did his boldness. He often would veer into xenophobic, anti-European, and flat out racist rants that had little to do with the game. (I would provide the links and receipts but did I  mention that I'm sick and I'm not your fucking Google? It's all YouTubed for you to discover.)

5. The CBC who first hired his racist-ass never really challenged his bullshit because, frankly, he was great for ratings. To be blunt, they enabled him and allowed his platform to grow. To understand just how beloved he was to his loyal minions and sycophants, remember that he was once on a list of the One Hundred Greatest Canadians. (He clocked in at number 7 ahead of Alexander Graham Bell and Wayne Gretzky.)

6. When Rogers Sportsnet bought the rights to Hockey Night in Canada, there was a subcontracting arrangement set up whereby the CBC would simulcast the Saturday night games and the playoffs so that there would be continuity and so that the product would reach more Canadians. Rogers rehired Cherry and his sidekick Ron MacLean, to continue Coach's Corner. It was a money decision. Budweiser (who owns Labatts) is the primary sponsor. They have been at Rogers for the past seven years, so all of you busting the backs of the CBC ombudsman, back the fuck off. They do not employ any of the hockey announcers. Rogers does and it is Rogers that finally stepped up today to fire Cherry.

7.  Don Cherry did not have his right to free speech denied today. He is free to spew or believe whatever racist shit he'd like. What he doesn't have a right to, is a private company's platform from which to cackle. Cherry worked for Rogers. He, like every other employee, is subject to and bound by whatever the code of conduct Rogers deems appropriate. Cherry obviously violated that today because his employer took action. Some, myself included, would say that his dismissal is long overdue. Perhaps. But whatever sent Rogers over the edge today had absolutely nothing to do with a violation of free speech. Cherry was hired to talk hockey and even though he veered off on more than one tangent in his career, this latest one was a bridge too far for his employer. We might never know the exact conversations that occurred at Sportsnet today but you can be damn certain that the sponsors' and money considerations were involved.

8. For all of you spouting the fact that Cherry was held to a higher standard for his racism than our own Prime Minister, I will not argue the point. It is true that what Justin Trudeau did in blackface was abhorrent and I won't defend it but we just had a job review concerning his actions and for whatever the reasons, a strong minority of Canadians rehired him. Cherry's employer chose to go a different direction and for that I applaud them. I also will not accept "whataboutism" in any form. Every case is singular and should be examined on the merits.

9. This entire episode is being spun around Cherry's affinity for our veterans and the poppy symbol. I have no doubt that he is passionate about them both but let's not pretend that his rant wasn't filled with racist dog whistles ("you people") and immigrant hating verbiage. In the words of that great philosopher, Judge Judy Sheidlin, "Don't pee on my leg and tell me it's raining."

Nobody is entitled to a lifetime pass in a job unless you happen to be an American Supreme Court Justice. Don Cherry's time has long passed him and his vocal minority of supporters by. The NHL, Hockey Canada, the mayors of Mississauga and Toronto, and other high profile hockey people and politicians called for his removal. This isn't "cancel culture". This is a clear example of a man who grossly abused and violated his platform and job description and got canned for it.  The ranty, racist uncle act wore thin with the wrong people and I believe that both hockey fans and Canadians will be better for his exit from the public arena.

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