Barrett: Cancel culture needs to go

Don Cherry Postmedia File Photo

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Cancel culture strikes again.

Clearly, we’re all living in the musical Carrie and the “The World According to Chris” where you it’s “better to strike than get struck, better to screw than get screwed.” That’s exactly what happened to now former Hockey Night in Canada Coaches Corner co-host Don Cherry when he was fired on Remembrance Day for offending people without actually being offensive.

Last Friday, he spoke with Postmedia’s Joe Warmington, scolding poppy-less Canadians for their lack of support.

“They couldn’t care less,” Cherry told him. “They enjoy the freedoms the soldiers, sailors and airmen died for but that’s it.”

He referred to how few he saw wearing poppies in the areas of Brampton, Mississauga and Toronto, adding people “like the milk and honey the soldiers provided, though.”

Cherry, never one to pass up a moment to support veterans on national TV, particularly at this time of year, echoed his own sentiments, albeit a little less eloquently during his Saturday night segment where he said: “You people that come here, you love our way of life, you love our milk and honey, at least you can pay a couple of bucks for poppies or something like that.”

I didn’t hear or see anything wrong with it. “You people,” as I understood it, was referring to those who don’t wear poppies. As the granddaughter of an immigrant, in a family with a long and deep history in the military on both sides, including great-great uncles killed on the beaches of Normandy, I agreed. It’s a small ask to make a donation and wear a poppy and acknowledge, for at least a couple weeks in the year, the sacrifices made so that we can know peace and freedom.

Flash forward to Sunday where it became obvious many didn’t take it the same way I did, and that many glossed over the intent of his message to focus instead on their interpretation of “you people.” Cherry was (and still is) being called racist, xenophobic, fascist, misogynistic and homophobic (not sure where the last two came into play on this particular issue).

Cherry never singled out a race. He didn’t single out a certain denomination or a specific group. He didn’t say anything explicitly offensive in his 20-second typical fragment-riddled rant. Given the article on Friday, I’m going to give him the benefit of a doubt and say he didn’t intend to single anyone out either – and that’s backed by his post-firing interviews where he acknowledged he should have said “everyone.” However, he was never given the chance as Sportsnet allegedly told him he could not put out a tweet or say anything for a few days, only to turn on the TV Sunday and see Ron MacLean apologizing.

However, say his comments were offensive – were they that much more offensive than Prime Minister Justin Trudeau wearing blackface and singing the Banana Boat song? Cancel culture would have you believe so, because the same Liberal MP’s who defended Trudeau shamed Cherry, and statements were soon issued by the NHL, Budweiser, the Royal Canadian Legion, and Sportsnet cancelling Cherry lest they be cancelled instead.

What a world we live in where we hold an 85-year-old sports commentator to a higher standard than our main elected official.

Therein lies the problem – if people were unwilling to fire Trudeau, are they actually offended over Don Cherry’s comments, or do they just want to appear as such so they can virtue signal how much better and “right” they are for it? Is this really about racism, because I’m starting to think it’s not.

While there are those who took to social media and tried to lambaste Cherry over apparently insinuating non-white people don’t wear poppies (because apparently people like my Hungarian grandfather, are not true immigrants because they are Caucasian), there were those who were visible minorities that said they were not offended and even agreed that people needed to learn about the poppy. CP24 spoke with some of them, and others went to Twitter and Facebook.

You know what happened to those who went to social media to back him? White dudes, who supposedly “actually know about sports,” and white women who admitted to never watching Don Cherry’s segment, started telling them why they should be offended. Because you know, white people telling visible minorities what should or shouldn’t offend them or how they should feel about a certain situation isn’t at all racist in and of itself.

Former Toronto Maple Leaf and current Colorado Avalanche Nazem Kadri, who is of Lebanese descent and has every right to be offended by such a comment had to be the one to defend him.

“(Cherry) has been there for so long, it’s going to be hard to see (Hockey Night in Canada) without him. That’s definitely unfortunate,” Kadri said to the Denver Post’s Kyle Fredrickson. “I know Grapes and I don’t think it came across like everyone is making it sound. I think with what he said, it was maybe just said incorrectly. People maybe took it out of context a little bit. I know Grapes is a great person and am sad to see him go.”

Did white dudes tell him how wrong he was? Absolutely.

Honestly, I’m OK with Hockey Night in Canada moving on and going in a new direction. I would’ve even been OK with Cherry’s firing or being let go on any other day, for other reasons, but the way Sportsnet handled this was classless and inappropriate, and bought into cancel culture while doing nothing to further the conversation of racism, nor respect for veterans and the importance of wearing the poppy.

So I’ll agree with Kadri – Cherry has done a lot of good, and I am sad to see him go this way. Honestly, I hope Sportsnet feels the sting of cancel culture karma for a long while.

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