Tim Thomas and the White House

By mid-afternoon today I started peeking at the Twitter app on my smartphone to catch Tweets coming from Kevin Paul Dupont, Fluto Shinzawa, and the other members of the Boston press covering the ceremony in which the Stanley Cup champion Bruins were being honored at the White House, just as every championship team in every major American sport has been honored for as long as I can recall. Almost immediately, I saw Tweets that goalie Tim Thomas had declined the opportunity to participate in the White House ceremony with his teammates with suggestions that it was some sort of political statement by Thomas. As I started to write this post hours later, I found that both the Globe and the Herald have stories with both carrying Thomas’s official explanation with the Herald giving a bit more on Thomas’s political background.

When I first learned of this, I was really surprised by how angry this made me. I’ve spent some time contemplating why that was so. While Thomas had every right to make a political statement by his actions, he chose a time and a place that disrespected his teammates, the White House and the office of the presidency. As much as I disliked President Obama’s predecessor, had any member of the Red Sox or Patriots championship teams boycotted their White House ceremonies, I would have found that equally classless. But that wasn’t what angered me. What bothered me most was that at a time when our country is deeply divided on anything even remotely political, sports and entertainment provide a neutral refuge where we can all relax and enjoy each others company. Today Billy Cundiff was the topic of conversation, not Newt Gingrich or Mitt Romney or Barack Obama. And that respite from political combat is not only enjoyable, it also provides a valuable reminder that we’re all decent human beings despite our political disagreements. But when one of the stars injects politics into sports, it destroys that safe place where we can set aside our differences. And I resent Tim Thomas for doing that.

Every person has the right and some might say the obligation to participate in the political process. But when you’re in the entertainment business, whether you’re a rock star or a sport legend or a movie idol, I’ve always thought it ill-advised to be too vocal and too visible in your political activities. Our country is split politically at close to a 50-50 margin, so no matter what side you take, you’re going to alienate half of your fans. Economically, with all the entertainment options out there, why give folks a reason to change the channel? And from a societal cohesiveness point of view, why not let us enjoy your athletic accomplishments in a bubble free of politics? Well through his actions today, Tim Thomas certainly gave me a reason to change the channel. I enjoy watching the Bruins, but not that much and seeing Thomas in net will just be too annoying. But that won’t be the case for long since the future of the Bruins lies with Tuuka Rask.

15 Responses to Tim Thomas and the White House

  1. Bob Antonelli says:

    This was not the proper time for Tim Thomas to show the USA that he was a Republican. The owner of the Bruins(Mr. Jacobs) is also a Republican but he knew that this was not the proper time to display your political party allegiance. Tim will have to learn about Massachusetts politics the hard way.

  2. kad barma says:

    “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.

    This is the only public statement I will be making on this topic. TT”

    Good on him. Its hard for me to understand why this should have made you so bitter, and I don’t for a moment believe it would have been the same for you had a liberal philosophy prevented a Red Sox player from meeting with Dubya. (I think Manny was AWOL for one of them, but I’m sure it had nothing to do with politics).

  3. DickH says:

    You’re wrong in saying I would have had a different view if it had been a liberal-leaning celebrity and a conservative White House. I cringe any time I see a candidate I support share the stage with some celebrity. It’s the celebrity’s right, but it’s also off-putting to many who get enjoyment from that celebrity’s talent, be it on an athletic field or a performance stage. We have ample opportunities to fight about politics and not enough opportunities to set aside those differences and enjoy each others company. Sports has always been one such place.

  4. Susan Julian Gates says:

    I am in the middle on this. I do not think celebrities should necessarily be mute about their political views, but there is a time and place. In this particular case i agree with you. His act showed a complete disrespect for the office of the President and his team mates. I have no idea how he has previously spoken out about his political views, but this was not the place for it. I dare say though that this is just another example of how the right wing has taken us down the path of incivility. When we have orchestrated shouts of “Liar!” at our President in Congress, i shouldn’t be shocked by this, but I am and it reenforces the sterotype of hockey’s reputation for thuggishness.

  5. sjmcnamara says:

    Kevin Paul Dupont had an excellent column about Tim Thomas’s poor decision. When athletic teams are being honored for their accomplishments player(s) should keep their political comments to themselves. I agree Thomas disrespected the TEAM, their is no I in team, the team was being honored not the player!

  6. Publius says:

    What Thomas recognized was that the Obama campaign could use the picture with him to advance Obama’s political agenda. He did not want to contribute to helping Obama winning reelection. His picture with Obama could be considered or played as en endorsement.

  7. C R Krieger says:

    So, trade him.  Better yet, call for his being traded off to anyone.

    In his place I would have gone, or at least I think I would, sitting here in my kitchen, but I am bitter at any suppression of free speech.  I am in slightly modified agreement with Kad Barma on this one.

    Regards  —  Cliff

  8. James says:

    Come on, its not a suppression of free speech to say that we don’t approve of his timing or decision. If so, then it’s an equal suppression of our free speech to say we shouldn’t criticize him. Nor is President Obama going to use images of himself with the Boston Bruins in any campaign forum (you think he’s really worried about the Massachusetts electoral votes? The only place in play with Bruins fans is New Hampshire.)

    He overshadowed his teammates and disrespected the office of the presidency. Meanwhile, Obama still praised him in his speech about the team. There’s only one person who looks worse coming out of this and its Timmy. Thats certainly his right, which has never been questioned, so any insuination of that is pure strawman. It’s just a choice that reflects poorly on him.

    Besides, the fact that Tuukka is outplaying him this year and is younger and cheaper, maybe they will trade him. Free market economics!

  9. Jim O'Loughlin says:

    Unfortunately another example of a “celebrity” thinking they are much more important than they are. Thomas wrote about his concern about ” the federal government has grown out of control”, perhaps he should be equally concerned about the Bruins ticket pricing growing out of control. I recently checked the Bruins website for tickets and found Loge seating available for between $116-$279 per ticket!! I am sure however that Mr. Thomas will have no comment on the out of control pricing of tickets or a beer at the Garden. Does Mr. Thomas share his outrage at the inability of parents to take their children to a hockey game, or does the fact that the proceeds pay for his million plus contract make that OK.

    Mr. Thomas put himself above his teammates. While he chose to stay away like a spoiled, entitled child, his teammates were forced to answer the question of his absence. His total disregard for his teammates and the organization that pays him so well was in such poor taste.

  10. Righty Bulger says:

    Nothing new here. Goes back to Dan Hampton of the Bears skipping White House ceremony in 1985 with President Reagan. James Harrison of the Steelers is an equal opportunity skipper, avoiding George W. Bush in 2006 and President Obama in 2009. Manny Ramirez was also a no show. Its really no big deal and I’m sure you’d have felt the same outrage Dick had you realized athletes were skipping Republican Presidents, no? Or is the real issue here that some folks are really down on “The Messiah”, hence Democrats now have their panties all in a bunch?

  11. DickH says:

    The main point of my post was my disappointment that Bruins hockey, a thing I could enjoy without worrying about politics, had suddenly plunged into politics. The string of comments here and on my companion post on Facebook prove that to be so.

    I certainly wasn’t “outraged” that Thomas skipped the event. I just thought it was classless and an example of putting himself above his teammates. Sometimes you just have to suck it up and do personally distasteful things for the greater good. That goes to his character, I think.

    As for Epstein, I don’t recall commenting on him skipping the White House. I can’t say I even noticed. There is an argument to be made that a player is different than a front office guy. As someone commented the next day upon seeing the group photo in the newspaper, “What are all the old bucks doing in the front row?” If Peter Chiarelli had skipped the White House, I really would not have cared. In any case, Epstein was wrong for skipping the White House and I’m glad he’s now Chicago’s diva, not ours.

    Substantively, I find Thomas’s protest laughable. If I want to learn more about original intent, I’ll heed Antonin Scalia, not some guy making $5 mil per year to play hockey who’s whining about an out-of-control government.

    I’m tuning out the Bruins for now, at least. Every time I see Thomas in the net I’ll think of Glenn Beck on skates. It’s not like pro hockey is a big part of my life. The last time I paid attention to the Bruins prior to last year, Brad Park was playing defense. Besides, for background noise when I’m on the computer, the police scanner is far more interesting.

    Well, I could go on and on but I’ve got to sign off. I don’t want to be late for the Elizabeth Warren rally.

  12. Margie A-B says:

    This wasn’t about Tim Thomas and the Bruins having to go to the White House to confer their approval on the administration. It was about the team being honored for its significant accomplishments on the ice. To refuse to accept that with grace and be unwilling to rise above the partisanship that has poisoned public life is totally classless, an affront to the Office of the President……….There’s a parallel to the rude manner in which Arizona Governor Jan Brewer gave the President a dressing down today when he stepped off Air Force One on the tarmac in Phoenix, wagging her finger in his face.

  13. Righty Bulger says:

    You will give up on watching the Bruins and not root for Thomas anymore, but you’re not “outraged.” Funny.

    It was Manny who skipped the Bush visits. I suppose you stopped watching the Sox, too?

    As for this abondonment of team nonsense coming from folks who I’m assuming have never been part of a professional team that works and travels together for most of the year, it didn’t seem to hurt the Steelers when Harrison skipped his Bush visit in 2006. They were so bothered by their teammate “steeling” attention from the monumental accomplishment, they gave him another chance to skip out on The Messiah in 2009.

    Whether the Bruins win or lose this year is much more dependent on how Tim Thomas plays in net than whether he played nice with the Prez.

    Oh and Maggie, I assume you were equally upset at the lack of decorum and respect for the office when George W was portrayed as a Nazi and worse. You even joined the phonies from the right and stopped buying Dixie Chicks records, right?

  14. Renee Aste says:

    Politely said, Manny has mental health concerns. Tim was well aware of his choice of behavior. Tim was not being honored by the President, really he was being honored by our country, it just happen that our President was being our representative.