It seems like there is an embarrassing report about hockey and certain fans every other week. The year started with an unfortunate series of tweets about Team Canada's praised Afro-Canadian goalie at the World Junior Hockey Championship in Russia. The pattern goes like this: "why is there a person of colour on the ice?," "This athlete belongs in... [a different setting/country/continent]," and all unforced errors committed by said visible minority hockey player yield personal attracts about his race rather that his sporting ability. A young Winnipeg Jets athlete mused openly that his foolish behaviour came under gratuitous scrutiny because of his skin colour. The concept has been observed in other spheres, namely the unprecedented examination of President Obama's birth certificate -- a stress test never before imposed on a presidential candidate.
A few weeks later, TSN Sportscentre got its share of disparaging online observations after the TV show featured two visible minorities to host a sports analytics episode. The sports network took a giant leap towards reflecting the diversity of viewership it aims to attract in 2012 when they hired a pair of apt commentators, Gurdeep Ahluwalia and Nabil Karim.
The ensuing Twitter backlash against the two Canadians of South-Asian heritage did not phase the network, as they know that genuine goodness is threatening to those at the opposite end of the moral spectrum. TSN seems willing to lose a few bigot viewers in a bid to stand on the right side of history.
The manner in which Canada's top sports shows have dealt with the recurring issue of racial and ethnic insensitivity merits some contemplation.
While Canada's most-watched sports news and information show, TSN Sportscentre, forges ahead with overt embrace of Canada's emerging tapestry of inclusion, the CBC's top two figureheads seem like they belong in the Mad Men era.
Hockey Night in Canada made its TV debut in 1952. Don Cherry's Coach's Corner features twin torchbearers: the ghosts of winters past. Specifically, Mr. Cherry has garnered a lot of bad karma, and it has nothing to do with his stupendous suit jackets.
The co-host has repeatedly insulted the federally-funded broadcasters' viewers by denigrating French-Canadians, First Nations and giving favour to violence. Later, Cherry bent over backwards to try to mispronounce PK Subban's name -- a well-rehearsed tactic. Cherry claimed Subban didn't "show enough respect" on the ice. Did the star player of Caribbean descent stand too tall for Cherry's liking?
Cherry's Archie Bunker-era xenophobia drips from his mouth at every opportunity: Russians have no heart, Ovechkin has a "foreign style of play," one which is drenched with negative undertones. Cherry's repeated haterade hat-tricks have irritated NHL clubs as well.
Despite the widening gap between the CBC's well-paid TV anchor and hockey fans' evolving demographics, the taxpayer-subsidized broadcaster clutched the mascot for olden days-bias and intolerance more than a goaltender hugs a goalpost.
While Canada's public broadcaster continues to look for efficiencies in light of their dwindling federal funding, they chose the sale of the iconic HNIC song amid calls of being "hung for treason." The CBC should have kept the feel-good tune and dumped the biggest drain on our national winter sport instead.
Don Cherry's regressive rhetoric betrays Canada's reputation as a nation of inclusiveness and cultural tolerance. While the Harper government sent clear signals on this topic when it repealed portions of Canada's hate speech legislation in the Canadian Human Rights Act (as white supremacist groups cheered with glee), the CBC shouldn't take its position as the national treasure of television to give those beliefs an additional platform.
The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation has tolerated this intolerable treatment for too long. Don Cherry's distasteful diatribes belong in hockey's past, not in the Canadian national pastime's present or future.
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