Friday, February 6, 2004

OTTAWA — The combative co-host of Canada’s most popular ice hockey TV show will be censored after suggesting that players from French-speaking Quebec were cowards for wearing protective visors, the country’s public broadcaster said yesterday.

Although Don Cherry has made disparaging remarks about French Canadians — and others — previously, his comment on “Hockey Night in Canada” that “most of the guys that wear [visors] are European or French guys” sparked a backlash.

Furor over the Jan. 24 remarks by Mr. Cherry, an ex-National Hockey League coach known for his loud suits, prompted the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. to institute a seven-second tape delay for his “Coach’s Corner” segments between NHL game periods, effective immediately.

“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,” Executive Vice President Harold Redekopp said in a statement.

He said Mr. Cherry has promised not to repeat such comments.

The move to essentially muzzle the commentator follows a similar plan by CBS, the U.S. network, which said this week that singer Janet Jackson and pop star Justin Timberlake will appear on tomorrow’s Grammy Awards, but with a tape delay so censors can edit any crude behavior or language.

Miss Jackson’s publicist later said she had bowed out of the show.

The duo caused a worldwide ruckus and sparked a U.S. regulatory investigation after Miss Jackson’s right breast was briefly exposed during the Super Bowl halftime show last Sunday.

Canada’s official languages commissioner has started a probe into Mr. Cherry’s comments, which federal minister Denis Coderre said were outrageous.

“I find it despicable, I am hurt. People have got to stop continually resorting to these kinds of stereotypes,” said Mr. Coderre, who is from Quebec.

“This is starting to go far too far … when you’re talking about this all the time and calling Frenchmen wimps, it’s unacceptable,” he told reporters.

Jean Augustine, minister of state for multiculturalism, later told reporters that “the government will not tolerate statements that create dissonance in our society and disrespect for others.”

She and Mr. Coderre demanded that the CBC take action.

Part of the reason for Mr. Cherry’s repeated remarks about “French guys” is his contempt for the concept of Quebec sovereignty. The province had separatist governments from 1976 to 1985 and from 1994 to 2003.

“It’s a funny thing they don’t want the Canadian flag, but they want our money. I’ve never seen such a bunch of whiners in my life,” he said in 1998 after complaints that there were too many Canadian flags on view at the Nagano Olympics.

He also described freestyle skier Jean-Luc Brassard, who was Canada’s flag-bearer at Nagano, as “a French guy, some skier that nobody knows about.”

• Jeffrey Jones contributed to this report.

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