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Boris Johnson, royal watchers react following revealing Harry and Meghan interview

Britain and its Royal Family absorbed the tremors Monday from a sensational television interview with Prince Harry and Meghan, in which the couple said they encountered racist attitudes and a lack of support that drove the duchess to thoughts of suicide.

In a two-hour soul-baring interview by Oprah Winfrey, the couple painted a deeply unflattering picture of life inside the royal household, depicting a cold, uncaring institution that they had to flee to save their lives.

Meghan told Winfrey that at one point “I just didn’t want to be alive anymore.” She said she sought help through the palace’s human resources department but was told there was nothing it could do.

Meghan, 39, admitted that she was naive at the start of her relationship with Harry and unprepared for the strictures of royal life.

The former television star, who is biracial, said that when she was pregnant with son Archie, there were “concerns and conversations about how dark his skin might be when he’s born.”

Harry confirmed the conversation, saying: “I was a bit shocked.” He said he would not reveal who made the comment, though Winfrey said he told her it was not either of his grandparents, Queen Elizabeth or her husband, Prince Philip.

Politicians weigh in

Asked about the interview at a coronavirus news conference, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson steadfastly refused to comment on the explosive allegations of racism and dysfunction inside the Royal Family.

Johnson said he had “always had the highest admiration for the Queen and the unifying role that she plays in our country and across the Commonwealth.”

But he said that “when it comes to matters to do with the Royal Family, the right thing for a prime minister to say is nothing.”

In contrast, Keir Starmer, leader of the main opposition Labour Party, says the palace has to take the allegations seriously.

“The issues that Meghan has raised of racism and mental health are really serious issues,” he said. “It is a reminder that too many people experience racism in 21st-century Britain.”

In the U.S., where Harry and Meghan now live, White House spokesperson Jen Psaki was asked whether President Joe Biden and his wife Jill had any reaction to the interview.

Psaki said Meghan’s decision to speak about her struggles with mental health “takes courage” and “that’s certainly something the president believes in.”

But she said she wouldn’t offer additional comment on the situation “given these are private citizens, sharing their own story and their own struggles.”

Harry slams ‘toxic’ British tabloid press

Harry and Meghan, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, announced they were quitting royal duties last year, citing what they said were the unbearable intrusions and racist attitudes of the British media, and they moved to California, where Meghan was born and raised.

That split became official this year, and the interview was widely seen as their first opportunity to explain their decision.

In a clip released Monday that was not broadcast the night before, Harry reiterated that racism was “a large part” of the reason the couple left Britain — and he blamed the “toxic” British tabloid press.

“The U.K. is not bigoted,” he said. “The U.K. press is bigoted, specifically the tabloids.”

The younger royals have campaigned for support and awareness around mental health, but Harry says the Royal Family was unable to offer that support to its own members. (Paul Ellis/AFP/Getty Images)

The implications for the interview — which was broadcast Sunday night in the United States and will air in Britain on Monday night — are only beginning to be understood. Emily Nash, royal editor at Hello! magazine, said the revelations had left her and many other viewers “shell-shocked.”

“I don’t see how the palace can ignore these allegations; they’re incredibly serious,” she said. “You have the racism allegations. Then you also have the claim that Meghan was not supported, and she sought help even from the HR team within the household and was told that she couldn’t seek help.”

‘This rotten institution needs to go’

Anti-monarchy group Republic said the interview gave a clearer picture of what the Royal Family is like — and it’s not pretty.

“Whether for the sake of Britain or for the sake of the younger royals, this rotten institution needs to go,” Graham Smith of the campaign group said.

Harry, born a royal prince, described how his wife’s experience had helped him realize how he and the rest of the family were stuck in an oppressive institution.

“I was trapped, but I didn’t know I was trapped,” Harry said. “My father and my brother, they are trapped.”

Meghan, he said, “saved me.”

WATCH | Meghan says Royal Family failed to protect her and Prince Harry:

The Duchess of Sussex told Oprah Winfrey that things started to worsen with the Royal Family after she and Harry were married. 0:23

The younger royals — including Harry, Meghan, Harry’s brother, Prince William, and William’s wife, Catherine — have made campaigning for support and awareness around mental health one of their priorities. But Harry said the Royal Family was completely unable to offer that support to its own members.

“For the family, they very much have this mentality of ‘This is just how it is, this is how it’s meant to be, you can’t change it, we’ve all been through it,'” Harry said.

Criticism, sympathy for the couple

The couple had faced severe criticism in the United Kingdom before the interview. Prince Philip, 99, is in a London hospital after recovering from a heart procedure, and critics saw the decision to go forward as being a burden on the Queen — even though CBS, rather than Harry and Meghan, dictated the timing of the broadcast.

In the United States, sympathy for the couple poured in after the interview. Britain could be less forgiving, since some see the pair as putting personal happiness ahead of public duty.

Tennis star Serena Williams, a friend who attended Harry and Meghan’s wedding, said on Twitter that the duchess’s words “illustrate the pain and cruelty she’s experienced.”

“The mental health consequences of systemic oppression and victimization are devastating, isolating and all too often lethal,” Williams added.

Other well-known figures also reacted on social media, including filmmaker Ava DuVernay — who referenced the BBC’s bombshell interview with Harry’s mother, Princess Diana, in 1995 — tennis star Billie Jean King and U.S. inauguration poet Amanda Gorman.

Some 17.1 million Americans — tuning in for one of the biggest TV events in the past year — watched the interview, broadcaster CBS said on Monday.

CBS said the interview was the most watched TV special outside the annual National Football League Super Bowl in a year.

While clips of the interview have been shared online, and the British press covered the major points, much of Britain won’t see the full interview until Monday night — and many will want to know how the palace addresses this saga. The palace has not responded to the interview.

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‘It’s unfortunate, sad, but he crossed the line’: NHLers react to Don Cherry firing

Max Domi wasn’t about to offer his opinion on Sportsnet’s decision to cut ties with Don Cherry, but the Montreal Canadiens forward was quick to express his admiration for a man he calls a family friend.

“I love Don Cherry. I always have, always will,” Domi said on Tuesday after the Habs’ morning skate. “He’s a big reason why most of us play hockey. We grew up looking up to a guy like that, watching Coach’s Corner and stuff. It’s unfortunate what happened, it’s sad. He’s a big part of hockey. That’s all really we can say unfortunately nowadays.”

Sportsnet sacked Cherry on Monday, two days after he was critical of immigrants for not wearing poppies on his Coach’s Corner segment on Hockey Night in Canada

Since the segment aired, Cherry has been a hot topic at arenas across the NHL.

Domi got to know Cherry when his dad, Tie, played in the NHL. Cherry’s grandson, Del, also was a close friend of Max’s as a kid.

WATCH | Don Cherry’s comments on Coach’s Corner:

Don Cherry sparked online backlash on Saturday night for his comments about immigrants not wanting to wear poppies ahead of Remembrance Day. 0:50
Cherry regularly has voiced his support for tough players like Tie Domi, who is third on the NHL’s career penalty minutes list.

“He was a family friend of mine and someone I looked up to,” Max Domi said. “I will always look up to him. He’s an unbelievable guy and what he’s done for this sport is remarkable.”

‘One of the faces of sport’

Domi declined comment when asked if he agreed with Sportsnet’s decision, instead choosing to focus on Cherry’s legacy when talking to reporters.

“Like I said, it’s unfortunate how everything unfolded,” Domi said. “But 85 years old, that’s a heck of a career. He’ll always be remembered as one of the faces of sport.”

Fellow Canadiens forward Nick Cousins acknowledged the news about Cherry caught him off guard.

He’s a bit of a clown. I’ve often seen him dumping on francophones. Now he’s doing it against immigrants.— Quebec Premier Francois Legault on Don Cherry

“I was pretty surprised they fired him,” Cousins said. “But obviously you make those comments, it kind of puts them in a tough spot.

“It’s just going to be completely different. You grow up watching Hockey Night in Canada, especially being from Canada, every Saturday night he’s on there and he’s always got a pretty strong opinion on things. Sometimes he crosses the line. Obviously, he crossed the line there a couple nights ago. That’s what happens nowadays. So it’s tough to see.”

WATCH | Ron MacLean addresses Don Cherry’s ‘hurtful’ remarks:

Cherry made comments on Hockey Night in Canada regarding new Toronto citizens not wearing poppies. 1:04
Quebec Premier Francois Legault was far more critical of Cherry than the two Habs forwards.

“He’s a bit of a clown,” the premier said in an interview on Quebec City radio station FM 98.9.

Leafs trio disappointed

“Effectively, I’ve often seen him dumping on francophones. Now he’s doing it against immigrants. I think at some point he’ll say anything. I think he shocks people for the sake of being shocking, for the pleasure of shocking.

“It was about time someone put him in his place, so I think it’s a very good decision from Sportsnet,” Legault added. “I’ll be able to start watching hockey again in English.”

In the Toronto Maple Leafs’ locker room, meanwhile, the feeling was one of disappointment, both with Cherry’s words on Saturday and the rough finish for a nearly 40-year run on HNIC.

“Disappointing on many fronts — obviously the comments, but certainly the way his tenure ended,” Maple Leafs captain John Tavares said. “I think he’s meant a lot to the game and provided a lot. Obviously disappointing, what happened and the result. I think everyone would wish something like this didn’t happen and didn’t come to these types of circumstances.”

WATCH: Dowbiggin on Don Cherry firing: ‘What took so long?’

Former CBC Sports host and current Not The Public Broadcaster podcaster Bruce Dowbiggin weighs in on Sportsnet’s decision to cut ties with the controversial longtime Hockey Night in Canada commentator. 8:51

Leafs centre Jason Spezza has a unique perspective after being drafted first overall by the Ontario Hockey League’s Mississauga IceDogs when Cherry was a part-owner in 1999. With the team at the bottom of the standings, Spezza requested a trade and was eventually dealt to Windsor.

‘A legend in the hockey world’

Spezza said he was a big fan of Coach’s Corner growing up.

Hockey versus politics. I try to stay away from that. I don’t agree with what he said.— Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy on Cherry

“It’s sad. I’m not one to weigh into it too much, but what makes Canada great is the equality we have and how diverse our culture is,” Spezza said. “You don’t like anything discriminatory that offends anyone, but Don is an icon. You don’t like to see things end that way. He was someone that was part of hockey for a long time.”

WATCH | Rob Pizzo discusses the two words that got Don Cherry fired: 

CBC Sports’ Rob Pizzo discusses the remarks that led to Don Cherry’s ouster at Sportsnet, after a career full of controversial comments on Hockey Night in Canada’s Coach’s Corner. 11:21

Maple Leafs winger Zach Hyman had similar thoughts.

“He’s a legend in the hockey world,” Hyman said. “He’s been around hockey forever. I grew up watching him on TV. It was cool when he talked about me playing for the first time. That was awesome.

“But at the end of the day, you can’t say stuff like that today. You’ve got to be accepting of everyone. ‘Hockey Is For Everyone’ is one of our slogans with the NHL, and that’s really true. That sort of stuff is unacceptable.”

The story also was a talking point in Boston, where Cherry used to coach the Bruins. Current Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy was critical of Cherry’s comments.

“Hockey versus politics, I try to stay away from that. I don’t agree with what he said,” Cassidy said. “I love the fact he was a great coach for the Bruins years ago, love the way the team played. But that’s just not the way I think.”

Meanwhile, a longtime friend, lawyer and business partner for Cherry says the native of Kingston, Ont., is “disappointed on a lot of fronts.”

“He’s disappointed that some people he counted on — friends and allies in the media — turned on him at a time of need, and didn’t give him support and in fact went out of their way to distance themselves from him,” said Trevor Whiffen, a former general manager of the IceDogs and now the governor of the OHL’s London Knights.

“Don is an extremely loyal person. Anybody that values loyalty expects loyalty. Don is always disappointed when those around him don’t reciprocate.”

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‘She is the star now’: Fans react to Bianca Andreescu’s Rogers Cup victory

Canadians celebrated on Sunday when 19-year-old Bianca Andreescu of Mississauga, Ont, became Rogers Cup champion — the first Canadian woman to win the tennis tournament in 50 years.

Andreescu was declared the winner after tennis legend Serena Williams was forced to retire from the match at Toronto’s Aviva Centre with a reported upper-back injury. Andreescu was leading the first set 3-1 when Williams called for a medical timeout and later retired.

Andreescu, right, stands alongside Williams during the trophy presentation at the Rogers Cup. (Evan Mitsui/CBC News)

Tia Trovato, a 19-year-old hockey player, said while she was happy to see Serena in person, she was hoping for a Bianca win. “I didn’t see that coming, that was shocking,” Trovato said of Williams’s retirement from the final.

“I know that she is getting a little bit older but she always fight so hard in her matches, I never thought that would happen. I thought they were going to fight it to the end but props to Bianca. We’re the same age, that’s so crazy that she’s winning the Rogers Cup at 19,” Trovato added.

Tia Trovato, a 19-year-old hockey player, said while she was happy to see Williams play in person, she was hoping for an Andreescu win. (CBC)

‘It was a great match’

Jim Vice was also hoping to see the two fight it out to the end for the winner’s trophy, but he was still very happy with the result.

“It was a great match,” Vice told CBC Toronto.

“It would have been a lot of fun to see them go to the end but we all like to see Bianca win. That was very popular.”

Williams said the injury is a recurring back spasm that doesn’t affect her ability to walk but makes serves and overhand shots painful. She’s expected to go to Cincinnati for the next stop on the WTA Tour to test it out ahead of the U.S. Open.

Andreescu, from Mississauga, Ont., was up 3-1 in the first set at Aviva Centre when Williams called for a medical timeout and later retired from the final. (Evan Mitsui/CBC News)

Jennifer Burtyanoff  says she was “surprised” to see Serena pull out 20 minutes in. Even so, she says it does not diminish the importance of the win for Andreescu.

“It’s a true win, man. She played, she beat her, it’s the way the game goes,” Burtyanoff told CBC News.

“It was bittersweet but I guess that’s the way it goes.”

Fan Jennifer Burtyanoff said even though the game was cut short, it did not diminish the importance of the win for Andreescu. (CBC)

Irma Fine was one Canadian rooting for Serena Williams. But when it was all over, she only had five words.

“She is the star now,” Fine said of Andreescu.

‘Golden years,’ Tennis Canada exec says

For Dave Bertrand, Andreescu always had a good chance, even if Williams had not retired.

“It would have been a heck of a match,” Bertrand said. “It was great for Bianca. She deserved it. I think it’s a good win and we’ll see some good things possible in Cincinnati and definitely the U.S. Open.

“I don’t know what’s happening in Canadian tennis but it’s good and I hope it keeps on going,” Bertrand added.

The Romanian flag was also on display Sunday at the Rogers Cup final in Toronto. Andreescu was born in Mississauga, Ont., to Romanian parents and speaks the language fluently. (Evan Mitsui/CBC News)

Michael Downey, president and CEO of Tennis Canada agree with Bertrand that these are great times for Canadian tennis.

“Tennis is a great sport in this country. It’s the golden years right now. The next 10 years are going to be special,” Downey told CBC News.

Michael Downey, president and CEO of Tennis Canada, said ‘it’s the golden years right now’ for Canadian tennis. (CBC)

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