TORONTO - Don Cherry has responded to the furor that erupted on social media after he called his Coach's Corner co-host Ron MacLean a "savage" and a "barbarian" for eating seal meat.
"Evidently I upset some people about my seal burger comments," the popular Hockey Night in Canada personality said in a comment posted over multiple tweets. "I would like to try to explain my comments. Not because I was told to or forced to. I do it because I feel I have hurt the feelings of some people I like and admire.
"I have friends who hunt deer and ducks and I myself have eaten venison and duck meat. Just the same as people who hunt seals and eat seal meat. I have no problem with my friends who are hunters and eat venison and duck. Just the same, as I have no problem, with people who hunt seals and seal meat.
"I do however find it very unusual, in my world, that a person would go into a restaurant and order a seal burger for lunch. I meant no disrespect to the hunters who hunt and eat seal meat just like I have no disrespect for the hunters who hunt deer and duck and eat their meat.
"Again, I do this explanation because I want to. I have hurt some people’s feelings that I like and admire. If this explanation isn't good enough, then let the cards fall where they may."
Cherry's controversial comments came on his Coach's Corner segment on Saturday night's Hockey Night in Canada broadcast. MacLean joined Cherry via satellite from St. John's, N.L., and said he had a seal burger for lunch in a local restaurant.
Cherry reacted with what seemed to be mock offence that MacLean ate a "little baby seal," adding "what are you, a savage, a barbarian?"
It remains to be seen Cherry's explanation for his comments will be enough for those who took to Twitter and called in him to apologize, including Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq.
"Sealing is important to Inuit culture and tradition," Aglukkaq posted. "Mr. Cherry's comments last night were hurtful and insensitive. I hope he apologizes.
"Our government will continue to defend Canada's humane seal hunt which is so important to many of our Northern and coastal communities."
Other Twitter users called for Cherry to be fired.
"According to Don Cherry, my Inuk friends are savages because they eat seal," tweeted Matthew Coon Come, former National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations. "The network should fire him for his racist remark."
Some local politicians in St. John's were also upset with the controversial 81-year-old commentator.
"Well Don Cherry, barbarians are we? shows you ignorance, lack of knowledge, insensitive!" posted St. John's City Councillor Tom Hann.