Cherry, host of “Coach’s Corner” on “Hockey Night in Canada,” left viewers shocked during Saturday’s segment after his remarks accusing “you people” -- ostensibly a reference to immigrants -- of disrespecting veterans on Canada’s Remembrance Day.
"I live in Mississauga [Ontario]. Very few people wear the poppy,” Cherry said according to ESPN, referring to the veterans remembrance pin.
“Downtown Toronto, forget it. Nobody wears the poppy...Now you go to the small cities. You people...that come here, whatever it is -- 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.”
He added: “These guys paid for your way of life that you enjoy in Canada. These guys paid the biggest price for that.”
Sportsnet President Bart Yabsley issued a statement on Monday announcing that Cherry would “immediately step down” following his “divisive” comments.
“Sports brings people together -- it unites us, not divides us,” the statement, posted to Twitter, read. “Following further discussion with Don Cherry after Saturday night’s broadcast, it has been decided it is the right time for him to immediately step down. During the broadcast he made divisive remarks that do not represent our values or what we stand for.”
Yabsley went on to acknowledge Cherry’s “integral role” in the sport and thank him for his contributions.
Cherry, 85, seemed to double down on his remarks following news of his departure, telling the Toronto Sun on Tuesday “I know what I said and I meant it.”
He said during a phone interview that he was fired for his remarks, but stands by what he said, adding “Everybody in Canada should wear a poppy to honor our fallen soldiers.”
“To keep my job, I cannot be turned into a tamed robot,” he said.
Cherry had a long career in the American Hockey League but only ever played one professional NHL game in 1955 with the Boston Bruins. He went on to become the Bruins’ head coach for five seasons from 1974 to 1979, helping bring the team to two Stanley Cup Finals.