NHL commentator Cherry declines degree

Nov. 5, 2011 at 9:06 PM

KINGSTON, Ontario, Nov. 5 (UPI) -- Flamboyant NHL commentator Don Cherry won't accept an honorary degree from the Royal Military College of Canada, the school said Saturday.

Cherry, 77, backed out after at least one member of the faculty on the Kingston, Ontario, campus expressed unhappiness about the decision to give him an honorary doctorate, Postmedia News reported.

The military college's senate had voted to give him the honorary sheepskin for his efforts in support of the Canadian armed forces and charitable activities.

College administrators issued a release Saturday saying it had "received with regret, but with complete understanding, Mr. Don Cherry's personal decision," the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. reported.

Cherry, widely known for his "Coach's Corner" segment of CBC's "Hockey Night in Canada" broadcasts, has been controversial at times, including derogatory comments he has made about French-Canadians, the CBC said.

Cherry said he won't attend the Nov. 17 ceremony because it wouldn't be fair to the other two inductees, the late Brig.-Gen. John Cadieux and Lt. Col. John Gibson, Postmedia said.

"It would be a circus down there," Cherry said on his show. "The other two guys are great guys. I'm sorry I can't be there."

Catherine Lord, a French professor at the college, sent an open letter to the Kingston Whig-Standard, criticizing the awarding of an honorary degree to Cherry.

"On many occasions he publicly expressed his contempt for many groups of the Canadian population, notably for the French-speaking Canadians, for the [lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender] community and for the immigrants," Lord said in the letter.

"What message will RMCC send, in celebrating Don Cherry, to the students coming from these groups? And what will the Canadian people remember from RMCC, as a serious and prestigious institution?"

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