Tim Thomas may have lost part of his fan base on Jan. 23. As per the annual tradition, U.S. President Barack Obama invited the entire Stanley Cup winning team, in this case the Boston Bruins, to the White House to celebrate their victory.
Netminder Tim Thomas, however, was the only hold-out and this immediately sparked a debate about whether he should have attended, regardless of his dissatisfaction with the federal government.
Should politics and sports mix? More specifically, should players’ political views intertwine with their job, which is playing the game? The Tim Thomas example had coaches and players speaking out all over the league last week.
Causing such a considerable stir and sideshow is unsportsmanlike. There’s a certain image that needs to be upheld when part of a professional organization. Failing to do so can tarnish your reputation enormously.
Thomas is an American who has been known to support the Republican Party, and has been described by conservative blogger Andrew Breitbart as a “true Tea Party patriot.” Signs of his patriotism are portrayed on his goalie mask, which carries the slogan “In God We Trust” and an image of the Gadsden Flag, which is the first flag ever to be carried into battle by the United States Marine Corps. There’s no doubting how patriotic Thomas is, but that’s no excuse for declining Obama’s invitation.
“That’s a pretty political move. It’s bold, he’s standing up for what he believes I guess,” said Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price to the Canadiens’ website. “I personally would’ve acted differently.”
Political views can distract a team as badly as language issues. Just ask the Habs’ interim head coach Randy Cunneyworth.
Thomas, however, ensured the media that there was no Republican bias on his part, stating that “this isn’t about politics or party,” but about the lack of action the government has taken to deal with the mess his country is in.
“I believe the Federal government has grown out of control, threatening the Rights, Liberties, and Property of the People,” he said in a statement on Facebook.
Thomas missed an incredible opportunity to meet Obama in person, and share his views directly. This would have been more constructive and would have allowed him to save face. Maybe he could have pulled a Michael Moore at the Academy Awards. The message Thomas is sending out to his teammates, and the rest of his organization, is that he’s above everyone else.
Tim Thomas’ decision is understandable, and his right to exercise the First Amendment is entirely valid, but didn’t he know it would create a media circus around his team? It’s even more disrespectful considering Thomas was the only American-born player on the team’s roster last spring when they won the Stanley Cup. He showed a lack of “basic courtesy and grace,” according to Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick.
The Boston Herald described Thomas’ absence from the White House as “embarrassing and classless.”
Players’ political preferences should be put aside when such an important ceremony takes place. Although Thomas isn’t the first professional athlete to snub the White House, he should realize that just like church and state, politics and sport should remain separate.