Professional sports crossed over into the world of politics yesterday when Boston Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas refused to join his teammates at the White House for a ceremony with U.S. President Barack Obama honouring the Stanley Cup champions.
Thomas explained his absence in a short posting on his Facebook page, writing: “I believe the Federal government has grown out of control, threatening the Rights, Liberties, and Property of the People. This is being done at the Executive, Legislative, and Judicial level. This is in direct opposition to the Constitution and the Founding Fathers vision for the Federal government. Because I believe this, today I exercised my right as a Free Citizen, and did not visit the White House. This was not about politics or party, as in my opinion both parties are responsible for the situation we are in as a country. This was about a choice I had to make as an INDIVIDUAL.”
A collection of some of the reaction in the sporting media this morning:
Kevin Paul Dupont of the Boston Globe called the Bruins' goalie self-centred and immature:
"Yesterday was not about politics and government until Thomas made it about politics and government. The day, long set on the calendar, was a day when the Boston Bruins were asked to visit Pennsylvania Avenue to celebrate what they did as a team last season. It was their day in the national spotlight, until Thomas didn’t show, and then the focal point became, much the way it would be in a hockey game, on the guy who was no longer standing in goal.
Shabby. Immature. Unprofessional. Self-centered. Bush league. Need I go on? All that and more applies to what Thomas did, on a day when Cup teammates Mark Recchi (now retired), Shane Hnidy (a radio guy these days in Winnipeg), and Tomas Kaberle (a member of some Original Six team in Canada), all gladly joined the red-white-blue-black-and-gold hugfest at the White House."
Boston Herald columnist Margery Eagan called the decision "embarrassing and classless."
"That describes Tim Thomas’ hollow refusal to join his Bruins [team stats]teammates at the White House yesterday to be honored by President Obama.
The only thing I knew about Thomas until yesterday had to do with phenomenal hockey playing. Here’s what I suspect today: He’s a spoiled brat.”
ESPNBoston.com's Joe McDonald wonders what impact the decision will have on the Bruins' team chemistry.
"Thomas' decision will no doubt spark a massive debate. He's a fan favorite. He can be considered the greatest goalie in franchise history. Earlier in his career when he played overseas, he was considered a hockey god in Finland for all his success there.
His absence, however, will have a lasting effect on his boy-next-door image."
Greg Wyshynski of the Yahoo blog Puck Daddy applauded Thomas for taking a stand.
"My take: Good on Thomas.
Good on Thomas for using this moment — where a professional sports team participates in what's both an honor for its accomplishments and a political photo opportunity — to make a political statement of his own.
It's the moment when Thomas will no doubt lose a lot of supporters, for sure, when they realize an athlete they celebrate has stark political differences than they have. He's not the first nor the last athlete to choose not to visit the White House.
It's a moment in which a professional athlete uses his fame, his influence for something he believes in, and does something that won't be popular among fans or media."
Columnist Kirk Minihane of WEEI, a Boston sports radio channel, writes:
"Whatever you think about his politics vs. Obama's (and I'm somewhere in the middle, I guess), can we all agree that everything we've seen and heard about Thomas over his years with the Bruins suggests that we aren't dealing with a moron? Thomas knew full well what this would look like, that he would be cast as the heavy for the first time in his NHL life.
The ability to tell the President that you'd rather hang out in your room at the Marriott than shake his hand at the White House is, when you really think about it, a fairly stunning example of what makes America great. Think that would fly in Cuba? Or how about Cold War Russia? Uday Hussein would torture and even kill soccer players for collecting penalties in games. You might not always like how someone exercises their freedom of expression, it's not always comfortable, but there is no more essential act in enabling the health of a democracy."
Bruins Insider Joe Haggerty of CSNNE sheds a bit of light on Thomas's views, sharing an anecdote on that includes the goaltender opining that he doesn't believe in the scientific theories behind global warming.