'The Social' cast member Jessica Allen clarifies Cherry comments

TORONTO — A correspondent on the Canadian daytime talk show "The Social" has clarified her hot-button on-air comments about Don Cherry's firing from "Hockey Night in Canada."

Jessica Allen ruffled feathers Tuesday when discussing Cherry's dismissal from the "Coach's Corner" segment of "Hockey Night in Canada" on Monday after he suggested on air that immigrants don't wear poppies.

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Allen told viewers that she doesn't "worship at the altar of hockey" and found in her experience that those who did "all tended to be white boys who weren't, let's say, very nice."

"They were not generally thoughtful, they were often bullies, their parents were able to spend $5,000 a year on minor hockey — $5,000 is a lot of money," Allen continued in Tuesday's panel discussion.

"You can do other things besides spending your time in an arena; you can go on a trip and learn about the world, see other things, eh? The world is a big place, maybe get outside of that bubble. And for me, Don Cherry is the walking, talking representative of that type."

In Wednesday's opening segment of the CTV series, Allen acknowledged that she "struck a nerve with many people."

She said she was only speaking to her own experiences with specific people who were hockey players.

"Rest assured, hockey families, I wasn't speaking about your sons and daughters, who I'm sure aren't bullies and I'm sure love the game as much as you do — as much as probably my grandparents did," Allen said.

"I was speaking about my own lived experiences, often negative experiences, with those who've played the sport and how they've led to me being conflicted, really conflicted, about how hockey is so closely bound to our national identity."

Allen's comments on Tuesday's show spawned the hashtag "FireJessAllen" and further stoked the social media flames that have erupted over Cherry's situation.

Many hockey parents expressed anger over her comments, with some calling for an apology and her dismissal from the show. Some said that by stereotyping and singling out a specific group, she did the same thing Cherry did when he called immigrants "you people" and claimed newcomers don't wear poppies and therefore don't support veterans.

"The Social" is a lifestyles and entertainment series with celebrity guests and panel discussions over current affairs.

Co-hosts include Melissa Grelo, Cynthia Loyst, Lainey Lui, and Marci Ien.

Grelo told Allen on Wednesday's show that they and the entire team at "The Social," "in this building and beyond," support her "100 per cent."

"We want to make it clear — we do not have a problem with the game of hockey," Grelo added.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 13, 2019.

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