Diversity in the Workplace- Lessons from Don Cherry II

This post is a continuation of my original post. If you missed it you can find it here.

As mentioned in my previous post diversity in the workplace is powerful and has its advantages if done well. Diversity can help organizations get different viewpoints and provide different and more diverse solutions to problems to reduce groupthink. I also think comments from people that represent organizations or companies are starting to be managed more due to the effects they can have on their brand. So to continue on there have been a lot in the aftermath of Don Cherry’s comments including an apology by Ron Maclean, a controversial comment by Jess Allen from the talk show The Social.

Starting with Ron Maclean he was probably in a difficult position after not catching Cherry on what many consider intolerant and other racist comments. Then he was in a position if he went against a friend in Cherry and apologized he would be seen as a backstabber or traitor to some. If he did not he would be seen as condoning the comments Cherry made and realistically from some put in the same boat as Cherry and probably terminated from his position at Sportsnet and seen as a bigot by some as Cherry has. Not the most enviable position- even when Maclean denounced Cherry’s comments Maclean was not really given forgiveness by many instead I read many comments on Maclean only apologizing to keep his job and people on both sides of the fence now not supporting Maclean and he has been on damage control. I do not know Maclean or Cherry personally but they are being judged in public opinion since they are public figures but in reality, Maclean was put in a difficult position by who he considers a friend and the friend (Cherry) did not do him any favours in regards to protecting his brand. Unfortunately Maclean is directly linked to Cherry but often is seen as the voice of reason and in reality, the network and certain people saw him playing the role of a babysitter to make sure Cherry did not make a comment like he did and many blame Maclean for not controlling the situation. As objective as I am trying to be, I definitely do not think it is fair to put Maclean in a situation where he was supposed to control a full-grown adult with pretty polarized opinions. I ask people to objectively look at the comments and the reaction of everybody, Maclean, Cherry and the network (Sportsnet) and look at all three have tried to make this right in a way even Cherry who clearly has said he should not have used “you people”. My one opinion here is the education of Cherry and him visiting some recent immigrants to understand how much many of these people love and appreciate Canada would really have been a great outcome. The network did what they needed to do to limit damage to their brand and reputation. This is truly what all this comes down to after the comments were made as there was a scramble to protect peoples and the network’s brand and reputation.

Jess Allen from The Social then stirred the pot a bit with some of her comments and stereotyping hockey players as she clarified after it was her personal opinion as the kids that played hockey were rich, affluent, “white boys”. Again Jess Allen did apologize on her comments but I do not think they were far off from Cherry’s in regards to offending people and being unacceptable. I, I started playing ice-hockey at 5 years old and the game has been growing in ethnic communities for a while. We see South-Asian commentators often on TSN often in Farhan Lalji, and somebody like Nabil Karim who is now on ESPN. We now have Hockey Night in Canada commentated in Punjabi and local oilers analysts like Tony Brar. Jess Allen and Cherry both made comments that some have agreed with and others seen as discriminatory. The Social and Jess Allen’s apology did not go far to apologize to the people she stereotyped as the specific people she referred to she refused to extend an apology to. High school was a long time ago and it is surprising to see people hold onto hate of certain people for this long. I know I have done things in my life I regret and hope people would grow enough to forgive me over time. The audience for The Social is a pretty different target audience than Sportsnet broadcasts some may be the same but if analyzing personas you would find some large differences and again the brand and reputation were protected as CTV also apologized for the comments. It is difficult for some people to accept this apology from Allen as there was a “but” in it and on her social media originally she also responded to comments often without much tact and stood by her comments originally.

If we truly look at the fallout of comments from Cherry there was a domino effect. Our national identity is highly often linked to hockey and also multi-culturalism but they are rarely often linked. With changes in the demographics of hockey as second and third-generation immigrants enter and get interested in hockey branding and growth of the game is changing. Strategies in regards to brand need to be analyzed and targeted now to a more diverse group. I remember playing hockey as the only ethnic person on the team at times and remember one year we had as many as five South-Asian kids on the team. I never truly felt out of place on a hockey team and feel this is a great part of Canada and hockey is that it is so inclusive. You can also bet that Sportsnet and CTV both did their analysis (cost vs. profit CPA) to figure out the hit to their brand and social responsibility. In all of this what we can all hope that there are lessons learned and no matter what side of the fence you’re on the hope is we can come together and understand each person’s opinion. I did not wear a poppy this year the first year I can remember since my daughter was young and the same issue of safety when carrying a toddler. When we look at people and question what they are doing we should also question our assumptions as my belief still is people are fundamentally good.

Fahim Moledina is the Principal Consultant for Opti-Syn Strategic Consulting and is a business leader with expertise in project/change management, finance, lean/agile methods, as well as marketing and sales.

Fahim Ekbal Moledina

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