The LB Podcast Blog
It's now been just over a week since Don Cherry's now infamous "you people" rant on Hockey Night in Canada. Don Cherry has been a controversial figure for nearly 4 decades now, so most people who watched this unfold live on CBC/Sportsnet, or who watched it on YouTube the next day, were not really shocked at the fact that Don Cherry said something racist. What shocked some of us, however, was Ron MacLean's seemingly nonchalant response to Don's remarks. He seemed to shrug it off, and even gave Don a "thumbs-up" at the end of his tirade. You can watch the whole thing here:
Now, this is not new territory for Don Cherry. He has been saying problematic things on TV for many years. He has even claimed himself that he's not politically correct, and that the 'left-wingers' don't like him. He even referred to them as "pinkos" in an infamous interview with George Stroumboulopolous back in 2012. Don also spoke in this interview about the 2010 Toronto G20 protests, and that the people protesting shouldn't have been there. He praised the police for doing their jobs, and that if the protestors "couldn't take the heat, they should have stayed out of the kitchen":
Don also claimed, in a 1990 interview on The Fifth Estate, that he would make a "great politician" because he says what's on his mind, and that both the Liberals and Conservatives approached him, asking him to run for office (this, to my knowledge, was never corroborated). Now tell me, who does THAT sound like? But Don didn't stop there. He went on to say that "foreigners are coming in" and taking away NHL jobs from North American athletes. There are too many examples to mention here of Don Cherry's historical immigrant bashing in the NHL, but for a 'greatest hits' list, you can just click here. However, unlike Ron MacLean, the host of The Fifth Estate at the time, Eric Malling, pushed back on Don to clarify his statement. You can see Don's reaction for yourself below (skip to 6:55 for the relevant part).
One of the things that really stuck out for me was when Don said this: "Here we got people dying for want of beds and we're giving money to the foreigners? No way. It'd be Canada first and Canada only. That's what I am, a nationalist! I'm gonna start a new party, the Nationalists." Remember when I asked, "who does that sound like?" Well, just 3 years after this interview took place, a real estate mogul said this about Native American casino permits:
Donald Trump is also no stranger to controversy. Decades before becoming President, he was mired in scandal after scandal in New York and Atlantic City for shoddy building practices, nuisance lawsuits, and not paying contractors on time, if ever, among other things. But beyond that, the racist rhetoric was always there, if not hidden just below the surface. When Don Cherry's old Fifth Estate interview resurfaced, people on social media were quick to connect the two of them to their rhetoric.
It's not just their views on immigrants that connects them, though. The two men are also connected by the company they keep. Just days after Don Cherry was fired by Sportsnet, he went on Fox News to talk to Tucker Carlson about what happened. Yes, THIS Tucker Carlson. The same Tucker Carlson who said this, and this, and this. So of course, Tucker was going to be a sympathetic ear for Don Cherry, and Don in turn was going to feel right at home.
Now until recently, Donald Trump had been a regular feature on Fox News, with very sympathetic and favourable coverage, from Tucker Carlson to Sean Hannity to Laura Ingraham and more. So it should come as no surprise that Don Cherry went to Fox News for the same reason. But let's not forget some of the other things that Trump has said about immigrants that Cherry seems to emulate with his own comments. For instance, when Trump talked about folks coming from 'shithole' countries:
And just as some people in the White House have jumped to defend Donald Trump's remarks over the years, so too have people lined up to defend Don Cherry. Not the least of course, being old-time hockey legend Bobby Orr. So what does it say about hockey as a sport, or racism in this country? To try and answer that, let's go back to how Ron MacLean handled the situation. The night that Don Cherry said "you people" on Coach's Corner, Ron took to Twitter to say this:
Notice that nowhere in his statement did he specifically mention that Don Cherry's statements were racist, that he disagreed with him, or that he would hold him accountable. This is the 'benevolent' racism that allows for men like Cherry and Trump to flourish. When we do not call out racism in all its forms, and treat it with the urgency and stern condemnation it deserves, they will get away with it. Not only that, they will feel justified in their actions, as Don Cherry, Donald Trump, etc. undoubtedly do.
Fast forward to tonight, where Coach's Corner was filmed for the first time in over 30 years without Don Cherry. Ron MacLean takes time to address his thoughts and feelings since that fateful night:
Once again, rather than call attention to the ways in which Don Cherry's comments were racist, or that it shouldn't have happened, or that he is committed to doing better, he instead takes nearly five minutes to tell Don how much he loves him and that he called him and left him a message. I'm sorry Ron, this isn't about Don Cherry's feelings or your feelings. THIS ISN'T ABOUT WHITE PEOPLE'S FEELINGS. Nor should it be. Instead, it should be about how black hockey players face racism every day in minor and pro league hockey. This conversation should be addressing how hockey has always been a white macho sport, reserved almost exclusively for wealthy, white families. Instead, the discourse around hockey's benevolent racism has once again gone back to how white guys feel when they're held accountable.
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