“My father is no different than any powerful man, any man with power, like a president or senator.” – Michael Corleone, The Godfather
If you know anything about the Italian mafia, and as a small-town boy from Saskatchewan, I’m basically an expert, Don means, “boss.” It’s an honorific, which is a verbal sign of respect, usually intended towards an older person with absolute authority or power over his family or organization. Essentially, what the Don says, goes. No questions asked unless you want to sleep with the fishes. The only way to silence the Don is a bullet to the head.
Fast forward several decades to the modern Dons. Trump and Cherry have been “likable” TV personalities who have been able to say whatever they wanted to their smirking followers without pushback or penalty. Trump’s tweets carry more racism per byte then the Klan but up until last week, Cherry was just Canada’s, “grouchy Grandpa telling it like it is.” Ironically, this is how many pre-election Americans described soon-to-be-impeached Trump.
After nearly 40 years of telling it like it is, Cherry was fired from Sportnet this week. On this particular occasion, Don said. “You people that come here … whatever it is, you love our way of life, you love our milk and honey, at least you could pay a couple of bucks for a poppy.” Many people were upset by his firing. I’ll be honest, I was initially disappointed. I grew up watching him every Saturday night and insensitive tendencies aside, Don really does love our country and our troops which is noble and absolutely appropriate. Not only that, he is great at his job! He helped hockey surge in popularity and continued to remind us why it’s the most exciting sport to watch. Although I knew deep down what Don said was despicable, I let it go. Convinced myself it was a one-off. And stayed silent. Just how The Dons like it.
This morning, my knowing wife sent me this. It’s an excerpt from a 1990 interview with the Fifth Estate where Don Cherry went on National TV and literally said, “vote me into politics and I guarantee you no foreign trawler will come into Canada and take our fish.” He goes on to talk about his love for Nationalism. Had Canada not been still reeling from the Gretzky trade we might have noticed this blatant racism. We may have even said something. But we didn’t. And Don’s power grew. Silence has always been the source of Don’s power.
Dons haven’t been kind to those outside the family. While they no longer kill outsiders Corleone style, the most powerful let laws do it for them. For Don Cherry, his followers are his power. Already, a quarter of a million people have signed a petition to “Bring Back Don Cherry.” Consider their telling rationale:
“He may be politically incorrect, and may not have been as careful as he should have in his remarks, but his offense does not warrant firing.”
In other words, he may have said something racist on National Television but that’s not enough to fire him. Historically, this has been true. The outsiders were powerless. But times have changed. We are evolving.
The end of Don is here.