Don Cherry: Commentator faces backlash over poppy comments

Image source, AFP
Image caption,
The 85-year-old singled out immigrants for not wearing poppies.

Canadian ice hockey commentator Don Cherry has caused controversy for complaining that he rarely sees people he believes to be new immigrants wearing Remembrance Day poppies.

Speaking on the Hockey Night in Canada show, the 85-year-old singled out Toronto immigrants for not wearing poppies.

"At least you can pay a couple bucks for a poppy," he said.

Many have called Mr Cherry's comments offensive and factually incorrect.

What did he say?

"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," Mr Cherry said.

"These guys paid for your way of life that you enjoy in Canada, these guys paid the biggest price."

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While some on social media supported Mr Cherry's comments, many called them ignorant and ill-informed.

"Remembrance day is not about poppies. It is about respect. All immigrants I have known demonstrated respect, for Canada & for others. Don Cherry does not. Time for him to go," wrote one user on Twitter.

"We don't honour the sacrifice of those who died in battle by sowing division or distrust," wrote Paula Simons, an independent senator from Alberta.

A flamboyant and controversial character

By Jessica Murphy, BBC News in Canada

Don Cherry has been on Canadian television screens for decades.

The onetime ice hockey player and coach launched his career as a commentator for Canada's beloved game in the 1980s.

He is arguably one of the most recognisable Canadians, his celebrity built through his appearance on Coach's Corner, a segment of Hockey Night in Canada - television staple since 1952.

Mr Cherry is well known for his hockey commentary and sharp eye for the game, for his flamboyant, custom-made suits and his blunt manner.

His comments on issues like fighting in hockey, female sports reporters in dressing rooms, French-Canadians and "pinkos" that "ride bicycles and everything" have frequently landed him in hot water.

But he has also long been known for his fierce support of Canada's military, their families and their causes.

Others poked fun at the iconic commentator.

"Just realized my poppy fell off this morning. Am anxious to get a new one before Don Cherry has me sent back to where I came from," another user wrote, using the hashtag #youpeople.

The origins of the poppy as an emblem of remembrance lie with the opening lines of the World War One poem In Flanders Fields by Canadian officer John McCrae: "In Flanders fields the poppies blow, between the crosses, row on row."

Poppies are predominantly worn in the UK and Commonwealth nations such as Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. They are also used to a lesser extent in the US.

Media caption,
Why the famous red pin, created to remember the casualties of war, creates so much debate