Unpopular Opinion: 'Free speech' is not a thing and good riddance to 'Grapes'
In light of the long-overdue dismissal of Canada’s favourite bigoted hockey personality—who, while taking time off from accusing indigenous people of not creating their own breaks in life; saying women are too busy “yapping” instead of paying attention at hockey games; saying female reporters should not be allowed in men’s locker rooms; calling environmentalists “pinkos” and “left-wing kooks” for their views on climate change; calling former NHL enforcers battling the effects of head trauma “pukes and turncoats” for now criticizing fighting in hockey; repeatedly criticizing European and French Canadian hockey players for being “too soft” and ruining the “Canadian game”… just to name a few, decided he would use his 5 minutes of weekly air-time in between periods of a hockey game to exploit Remembrance Day and use it as an opportunity to attack “you people”, aka immigrants, in a bigoted rant veiled as some sort of patriotic sermon.
“You love our way of life, you love our milk and honey. At least you could pay a couple of bucks for a poppy or something like that. These guys pay for your way of life that you enjoy in Canada, these guys paid the biggest price,” Cherry said, emphasizing the “you” and jabbing his finger at the camera.
Don Cherry doesn’t speak for the majority of Canadians. However, the vocal minority would have you think the firing of the former coach of my beloved Boston Bruins from Hockey Night in Canada is in some violation of free speech. Of course, those people are simply ignorant.
Free speech has become the rallying cry for anyone projecting their own concerns that one day they too could be fired from their jobs for their bigoted—er, “politically incorrect” views. Now, let me set the record straight in what is less of an “Unpopular Opinion” as it is a straight-up fact check: There is no such thing as free speech.
First off, Don Cherry was fired—not arrested. There are very few people who have the luxury of saying whatever they want without potential repercussions from their employer. For that matter, can you remember a time in your life when you were able to say whatever you wanted with complete impunity? Probably not.
You can blame the “social justice warriors” all you want, but the reality is that the dismissal of Don Cherry had corporate support, as well. Hockey Night in Canada’s title sponsor, Labatt, signed off on the firing. Even The Royal Canadian Legion distanced itself from the comments made by Cherry.
My favourite take so far, though, has been from Asif Hossain on Twitter: “Conservatives in the dumbass culture war will view the Don Cherry firing as a forward attack from “the left.” They won’t care that it was in fact, a business decision based on sound free market principles. Cherry’s employers dropped an outdated product with diminishing returns.
Conservatives in the dumbass culture war will view the Don Cherry firing as a forward attack from "the left." They won't care that it was in fact, a business decision based on sound free market principles. Cherry's employers dropped an outdated product with diminishing returns.— Asif Hossain (@asifintoronto) November 11, 2019
Oh, and if you’re looking for a constitutional defense, you’re out of luck. As outlined in Section 2 the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedom, freedom of expression is protected as a “fundamental freedom”. However, the Charter also permits the government to enforce “reasonable” limits. Hate speech, obscenity, and defamation are categories of restricted speech in Canada.
Free speech is not a thing.
Hockey has evolved and the 85-year-old Don Cherry has not. His contributions to hockey beyond his playing and coaching career were nothing more than archaic and misinformed opinions about natives, women, the environment, and “foreigners”, as well as the uncanny ability to appeal to those charmed by mispronunciations, incoherent screaming, and shallow nationalism.
Good riddance, Grapes.
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