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Friday, April 4
CBC removes 'inappropriate' video from Web site

ESPN.com news services

For Don Cherry, apparently not all speech is free.

The Toronto Globe and Mail reported Friday that the Web site for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation officially removed a controversial video clip from Coach's Corner on March 22, when Cherry and host Ron MacLean squared off in a heated war debate.

Coach's Corner, an in-between-period segment that airs during the CBC's Hockey Night in Canada broadcast, went from hockey talk to war talk, when the outspoken Cherry criticized Montreal fans who booed the U.S. anthem before a game vs. the New York Islanders. Cherry then took a strong pro-war, pro-American position, while MacLean expressed his anti-war sentiments. A heated seven-minute argument followed.

During the debate, Cherry apologized on behalf of Canadians, saying that "years of pride went down the drain" with the Canadiens fans' behavior.

Cherry, who wore a tie embodying U.S. colors, also went at it with MacLean over the war in Iraq, chiding the Canadian government for its "lack of support to our American friends."

"I hate to see them go it alone," Cherry said during the broadcast. "These guys are over there, they're over there giving it all ... we're just riding their coattails."

MacLean stood firm that it was Canada's right not to go.

"Why attack Iraq if they haven't attacked you?" MacLean said.

The CBC was flooded with more than 1,500 calls and e-mails after the segment, many of them denouncing Cherry's position. The pair was told by CBC brass that the discussion wasn't appropriate, but neither was disciplined.

According to the Globe and Mail's report, some CBC staffers were upset over what they call the network's suppression of information after the network's online department was told a few days ago to erase the exchange between MacLean and Cherry.

The CBC provides a web inventory of all the Coach's Corner shows. But now, one show will be missing.

"The on-line staff were told to take it down," a source close to the network told the newspaper. "They weren't given a reason."

Said a CBC source, "I thought we were supposed to provide information. Coach's Corner might have been the wrong forum for Cherry's comments, but it's still censorship to some extent."

The CBC says otherwise.

"We thought that because Ron and Don are sports commentators and not political commentators there was no reason to put it anywhere else," CBC spokesperson Ruth-Ellen Soles told the Globe and Mail.

But the fact that neither MacLean nor Cherry were disciplined for their exchange seemed to irk others within the news organization.

"If a CBC reporter had gone on the radio, disparaged French Canadians and then said the CBC was run by the government, he would have been fired or at least suspended," a CBC employee told the Globe and Mail. "This speaks to Cherry's power as Hockey Night's cash cow and also the double standard at the network."

Cherry later spoke about the events in a radio interview on the Jim Rome Show.

"You have to realize the CBC is government owned," Cherry said on the program, which is broadcast throughout the United States and Canada. "You have to say the government was against it (the war) and I'm for it and I'm on a government program. I really thought this could be the end."

He added that his pro-American stance brings praise from "ordinary" Canadians but criticism from the media.

"Our media up here is totally left wing," he said. "It's socialist, left wing, pinko, commies. I got ripped to shreds in the left-wing media. That's the chance you take. I don't regret it and If I had to I'd do it over again.

"The true Canadians do not feel the way they do in Quebec there," he added. "Believe me, the majority of the people in Canada love the United States. We know you'd be there to help us and don't think too bad of us.

"It's just a damn shame (Canadiens fans) had to boo the Star Spangled Banner in Quebec," Cherry said on the radio program. "You have to realize it's Quebec and it's French Canadians."

The talk on Coach's Corner turned back to hockey last weekend, and the exchange hasn't hampered MacLean's views of his TV segment partner.

"That's Grapes. He wears his heart on his sleeve," MacLean told the newspaper. "In our medium, it's so tricky nowadays to discern what is sincere. It's the old Dick Schaap line: 'The key to television is sincerity and once you can fake that, you've got it made.' Don is closer to sincerity than most of us ever get. That's admirable, and I'd hate to see that shot down."

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