CBC apologizes for Don Cherry comments, commits to tape delay by Bruce Cheadle

Feb 6, 2004

Source : Canadian Press

OTTAWA (CP) - The CBC has placed controversial hockey commentator Don Cherry on a seven-second tape-delay leash and publicly reprimanded him over what management called an "inappropriate and reprehensible personal opinion" expressed on air.

The announcement came Friday from Harold Redekopp, executive vice-president of CBC Television, and capped a day of Cherry-baiting invective that rivalled some of the former NHL coach's colourful public pronouncements.

"Mr. Cherry's role on Coach's Corner is, and has always been, as a hockey commentator," Redekopp said in a release.

"However, during the Jan. 24 show, he unacceptably stepped beyond that role by expressing an inappropriate and reprehensible personal opinion as part of his discussion about the use of visors.

"CBC Television categorically rejects and denounces the personal opinions Mr. Cherry expressed during the segment. Comments such as those expressed during the show cannot be repeated and will not be tolerated."

To make sure the politically incorrect Cherry tramples no more sensitivities, the CBC said it will broadcast all future editions of Coach's Corner using a seven-second tape delay.

"This practice is common on many live broadcasts and is in effect immediately," said Redekopp.

Cherry landed in hot water after stating that most players who wear visors in the NHL are "Europeans and French guys." His rant against mandatory use of the protective eye shields during the Hockey Night in Canada telecast was relatively mild by Cherry's standards.

But the one-time NHL and minor-league enforcer, who signed a new contract with the network for a reported $700,000 a year before the season started, has a history of giving a verbal face wash - that infuriating rub of a stinking leather glove - to Quebecers and he seems to have reached some sort of tipping point.

Federal cabinet minister Denis Coderre lashed out at Cherry earlier Friday.

"Frankly, I think when you're talking about ethnicity all the time and calling French men wimps, it's unacceptable," Coderre said outside the Commons.

"It's time for Don Cherry to stop pushing French Canadians around."

Official languages commissioner Dyane Adam announced this week that she's launching a formal investigation into whether anti-francophone comments from Cherry reflect a systemic failure by the CBC to respect the Official Languages Act.

That left no less than three federal bodies - the CBC ombudsman, the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council and the official languages office - piling into the fray.

Jean Augustine, the Liberal government's junior minister for multiculturalism, said Friday she see's nothing amiss about the apparent overlap.

"I think each body has its own realm of jurisdiction," Augustine said.

She left no doubt about her own feeling toward Cherry's purposefully provocative banter.

"Most Canadians who value diversity, who commit to ensuring respect for each other, would feel . . . that kind of language is not really acceptable.

"The government will not tolerate statements that create dissonance in our society and disrespect for others."

That was a little too polite a critique for NDP Leader Jack Layton. Cherry, said Layton, "should be ashamed of himself."

"It's disgusting and unacceptable. He should certainly be apologizing, and maybe something more than that. Who knows? I'm in shock."

Conservative MP Peter MacKay countered that everyone should just chill out and let the CBC deal with the matter.

"This is a bit of a gag order on colour commentary," said MacKay. "Colour commentary - not to mix metaphors - gets a bit into the grey sometimes."

© Canadian Press