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Opinion: Tim Thomas’ Unfortunate White House Snub

Boston Bruins goalie Tim Thomas says his decision to skip a team meeting with President Obama was not about politics or party. (AP)

Boston Bruins goalie Tim Thomas says his decision to skip a team meeting with President Obama was not about politics or party. (AP)

Tim Thomas’ refusal to join his teammates for Monday’s White House celebration of the Bruins’ 2011 Stanley Cup win has elicited predictably insane reactions from political zealots of many stripes.

Should Thomas have attended? Yes, definitely, and for many practical, apolitical reasons: team unity, good PR, and the chance that a White House celebration of a sports championship might have been fun. And there’s a good political reason, too. Very few American citizens get the opportunity to voice concerns directly to the president. It’s hard to understand why Thomas, whose political passion has apparently remained closeted until now, would turn that down.

All criticism aside, it was Thomas’ right not to attend. It is his right to voice his displeasure about the federal government in whatever way he sees fit and, when the time comes, to vote however he chooses to vote.

But there are a couple of disappointing things about Thomas’ statement explaining his refusal to join his teammates at the White House. The first is the contradiction hiding in plain sight.

“This was not about politics or party,” Thomas insists.

Maybe he really does harbor contempt for both parties. Until he declares his affiliation, let’s give him the benefit of the doubt. But his decision definitely is about politics. Take away politics, and there’s absolutely nothing to talk about, no reason to snub what will probably be a once-in-a-lifetime invitation, no reason to tweet about it, no reason to engage in rhetoric. Thomas should simply admit he’s a political creature.

The second, and worse, disappointment is that the graciousness, charm and humility that has made Thomas so likeable throughout his amazing pro career apparently didn’t survive the end of the 2010-2011 season. When Vancouver Canucks ne minder Roberto Luongo criticized Thomas’ goaltending style and called him out for not praising him, Thomas, who roundly outplayed his counterpart on his way to what some have described as the greatest postseason a goalie has ever had, refused to bite. In fact, after Game 7, Thomas could be heard praising Luongo, saying “Hey, great year. Great series. You are a great goaltender” when they met in the traditional handshake line.

Thomas should have shown at least the same respect to the president that he showed to his Stanley Cup adversary. It would have been a great highlight among the many highlights of Tim Thomas’ career.

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  • Tom Hyland

    Why should Thomas “show respect” to the President when this President has shown no respect whatsoever to our Constitution? Obama, who purports to be a former Constitutional professor, signed into law the NDAA 2012 bill which included the permanent detainment of US citizens if they are merely accused of “terrorism” by any government official. The same bill repealed a 150 year old code of ethics that declared sodomy as illegal. Thanks to Obama, American soldiers are now free to entirely have their way with us. God bless REAL Americans like Tim Thomas. You wouldn’t be worthy of holding his skates, Gary.

    • WhiteguyfromNY

      Racism is all throughout the NHL. Also, I really really don’t believe the POTUS gives a shit.

    • gouvm

      Makes me so sad when members of our media seem to be, themselves, so brainwashed that they don’t notice the dangerous stuff they write. Being a brain-dead follower doesn’t make one a patriot. Speaking out against the gradual loss of our rights as citizens makes Tim Thomas worthy of all our admiration. How many people in his position would risk their popularity if they didn’t think the matter was of great importance to their countrymen. Can anyone possibly think that he did it for selfish reasons? Of course, he will be demonized now for speaking out and probably suffer intolerable insults. Trust me, he knew the ramifications of his decision but still went through with it because he couldn’t endure the feeling of being a hypocrite, which unfortunately most of the rest of us are. Instead of criticizing Tim, why not take some time to understand what he is saying and respect his right to free speech!

      • http://profile.yahoo.com/YULH2O4GAHINZKCQT3DQNNKLOA John

        gouvm, the only demonizing in these comments is Tom inappropriately condemning the President for a bill that he didn’t ask for and was thrust on him by a bunch of brain-dead congressmen.  Tim Thomas has a right to speak out, and I didn’t criticize him for it.   But some participants here can not wait to launch personal attacks on the president, who was only doing his job.   I am talking about the poster named Tom Hyland in this context.

        • Tom Hyland

          You read NOTHING regarding the drama leading up to this bill which is a crime against our Constitution and all Americans. Senator Carl Levin revealed that it was Obama himself who insisted that the bill include the option of permanently detaining Americans, without recourse to a lawyer nor a trial. That this hypocrite went ahead and signed the bill, with a wink of the eye stating that HE would never personally detain Americans means absolutely nothing. The next corporate fascist POTUS can go right ahead and have all the fun he’s ever dreamed of. Tell me exactly how the President “is only doing his job?” Is his job to use the Constitution as toilet paper? Is it his job to serve the corporate war machine at the expense of our freedom and the future of this country? Read the news, pal. Obviously you know nothing about how this bill was glued together and who the real traitor was behind it… ultimately, the criminal hypocrite who signed it. Why should I “wait” to launch a personal attack on this weasel?

    • http://profile.yahoo.com/YULH2O4GAHINZKCQT3DQNNKLOA John

      Tom, you are incorrect on several of your assumptions!   Are you unaware of the signing statement the POTUS added when he signed it?  Or are you being deceptive because you desire to attack him, rather than give thoughtful consideration to the situation.  

    • Hella

      Go Sodomites!!!!! 

  • Ralph

    I don’t see Thomas as being showing disrespect for his teammates.   He has shown he is an independent thinker and will not go with the flow for appearances sake.  I in fact agree with Thomas that as a country we are headed in the wrong direction and his rejection of an invitation helps make it possible to have a discussion on what that direction should be.

    • Guest

      All he showed was lack of respect for the OFFICE. Now, he has cost his team. That’s the problem. This is not about one’s opinion.

  • Joe Rysh

    The columnist thinks Obama would listen to Tim Thomas when he hasn’t listened to the American people or indeed common sense over the last four years. 

    Fair play, TT. 

    • Bostonpma


  • http://profile.yahoo.com/YULH2O4GAHINZKCQT3DQNNKLOA John

    Joe,  I need to disagree with you, politely, based on these facts: he has been listening, and doing the best he can with a bunch of uncooperative bonehead congressmen. Please don’t assume that your perception is truth for others.   I assure you that most of us think that the congress has been abominable, and the president doing a better job for us.

  • Rlambert

    He put his political statement ahead of his teammates, and made himself the focus of the day. Whether you agree or disagree with his point of view, he let his team down. Time for him to step aside for Tuuka.

  • Rudu41

    RON PAUL 2012!!!!

  • kelty

    Too bad Tim Thomas cares more about himself than the honor of the Bruins, the Team he plays for – there is no “I” in team

  • vandermeer

    I could care less what this hockey player thinks. He is simply disrespectful like many Americans who target our President for not being able to control all the problems we have in today’s world.

  • Edward Wayland

    Voice concerns directly to the President?! Wrong.That would have been just as bad as not attending. When the President of the United States invites you to the White House to honor something you’ve done the polite, classy, and patriotic things to do are: (1) show up (unless you’re in a hospital dying) in your best clothes (buy some if necessary); (2) act (no BE) grateful, honored, and gracious; (3) politely pose for pictures; and (4) refrain from using the occasion to advance some pet political cause (even if you feel REALLY strongly about it).  Any other reaction is low-class and disrespectful to the office of the President and, by extension, to the people who give it meaning: all of us. It does not matter who the President happens to be. If the devil himself gets elected it’s no excuse to snub a White House invitation or grandstand about your politics once you get there. In extending these invitations he acts in his role as “head of state” — in the same sense that the Queen does on England. He’d be wrong to ask people to vote for him while praising the Bruins victory and Thomas was wrong to do what he did. And, anticipating the right-wing wackos (like Thomas apparently) who think this is a liberal bias let me add that this has happened to Republican Presidents too and it was just as wrong. Michael Jordan refused to meet George H. W. Bush because he didn’t approve his politics and that was in equally poor taste.

    So you’re wrong, Mr. Waleik. This was not Thomas’s chance to have a private chat with the President about domestic policy. It was a ceremonial acknowledgement by our head of state of his and his team’s achievement. He should have gone and kept his mouth shut.

    • Anonymous

      Although I agree that “normal” people should follow the code of conduct you outline, you seem to forget that this is a professional hokey player we’re talking about, and an American hokey player at that.  If he were Russian, at least we could be sure that he had some sort of education, whereas American, can’t be sure he knows how to spell his own name and lets not forget the lily-white culture of American hokey.  But most importantly, this guy’s job is to receive brain injuries, do you really think he has the capacity to process more than 2 bits of information per day? Not that I am trying to excuse bad/rude behavior but lets face it, rules of polite society don’t really matter to people who have had more concussions than the score on their SATs.  

    • http://onlyagame.wbur.org/ Gary Waleik

      Mr. Wayland: I agree with you that he should have gone, as I pointed out in my commentary last week. And as for keeping his mouth shut, that’s certainly what I would have done, but my point was this: if Thomas was so concerned that the rights of Americans were being infringed, he should taken the opportunity to exercise his right of free speech  before the President. But maybe Thomas was concerned that doing so would have undermined his point, I really don’t know. At any rate, I don’t at all think that doing so would have been as bad as not attending. It is still possible, or so I’m told, for political opponents to argue in a way that’s respectful and productive. Call me a dreamer…

  • Benopara

    I became a hokey fan after the Bruins won the championship and have supported them ever since. However, that sport is  on the verge of losing me forever because of Tim Thomas’ unwise disrespect for the office of the President of the United States. Go Pats, Celts and Sox forever and evermore.


  • Dgdsfg

    Maybe he’s just racist? There are few if any black guys in hockey for a reason…

    • sam

      Maybe you’re just an idiot.

      • Dgdsfg

        Could be. But then again your thoughtful reply just shows it takes one to know one. 

  • Lee Jarm

    Its too bad that TT is getting so much flak for his actions.  I think it is likely that Obama would likely recognize TT’s right and explanation for not attending.   TT obviously has firmly held beliefs to which he is entitled and should be praised for the candid way he chose to handle the situation.   That was a much more “grown up” way of explaining himself than the manner in which many politicians and their followers conduct themselves.

  • BB

    I feel great sympathy for Tim. He (and truthfully each of his team members) was cast in an impossible spot. All of the offices of our Government should be treated with respect. But politics has become so dirty and its members so corrupt that there is really no way for a decent man to participate. If you go to the While House, you go out of self-interest. There can be no honor in being among such despicable people. And yes, I have met many of them in person… I speak from experience, not prejudice.

  • Maraith

    You respect the Presidency if not the holder of that position.  Shame on this guy for his disrespect. 

    And I have to wonder if the real issue is race, since he says it’s not about politics.  If so, double shame on him.

  • Lee Jarm

    @ responses who indicate respect for office should be the primary driver….By endorsing that rationale does that then mean that if this priniciple is applied universally that opponents of the chiefs of less benign regimes should honor the office simply because because it exists – regardless of how tyrannical?  We often honor people from other countries who have the courage to stand up for their principles in the face of adversity – recently a person who did that received the Nobel Peace prize.     Obviously TT feels strongly enough in his beliefs to stand up for them to this extent and for that he should be commended no matter how much one might disagree with his stance.

    • Anonymous

      The honoring of the Bruins was a State function, not a political one. Consider the way Jon Huntsman accepted the Ambassadorship to China where he could work for all Americans while disagreeing strongly with many Obama policies.

      There is no reason Tim Thomas could not have expressed his grievances with the current state of the political system in any number of other forums. And just saying he doesn’t like the way both parties are acting is not much of an explanation. Which issues are most important to him? Is it the taxation level that he pays while others making even more are able to pay considerably less? [I suspect that is a bigger reason than racism, but with all the "birthers" out there, you never know.]

  • Dgdsfg

    As some have noted, the ability to agree to disagree and respect for individual opinion has been lost in American life, not just political life due to the useless to everyone partisanship of the past decade that Gingrich launched during his time as speaker, and which both parties choose to thrive in as a matter of due course.  If we don’t “relearn” to agree to disagree, together we don’t stand, divided we definitely fall. Just ask Rome. 

    Bigoted or not,  Thomas, as an American with some freedom left,  has an absolute right to decline politely without question.  If it isn’t party or politics, and while racism has thrived during Obama’s term (Govt. says there are now at least 4x the number of known supremist orgs. nationwide in the past 4 years) then the possible defendable rationales gets pretty thin pretty quickly (Stage fright? Courage? Doesn’t like DC? doesn’t like to fly? Doesn’t like being told he did a great job?).

    And I stand corrected on no black hockey players. Appears there’s quite a few past and present…

  • http://www.facebook.com/mike.maliska Mike Maliska

    think Tim Thomas is great and I love the Bruins but get really everyone.  It is hockey. 
    If Thomas does not want to do I don’t blame him.  Maybe if Thomas as a jobs expert and our President
    was asking for help well fine, you put aside your difference and go. But this
    is a photo up for the President nothing more.

  • Lee Jarm

    don’t think that TT or hockey players being racist has much to do with the rarity of black hockey players  - more likely simply due to the fact that hockey is a particularly regional game – in regions which historically haven’t been populated by folks of African descent – be it in North American or the Nordic countries of Europe.

    • mary

      The gutless left will use the race card every time someone disagrees with Obama.  They have since day one and they will continue until November and beyond.

      • Anonymous

        The “left” as exemplified by Democratic members of Congress and state houses do not use the race card every time someone disagrees with them or Obama. And they are too often “gutless” in not calling it out when there is a strong case for it. But when right-wing ideologues call out straightforward arguments based on real data as “using the race card” it is understandable.

        But the rise of groups such as the “birthers” is clearly an attempt to make Obama an “other” who can be more easily hated without real justification based on what he has actually done, not some claim from fantasyland. For all the exaggerated claims against GWB [and there weren't that many] none were as demeaning as those against Obama. How does racism not contribute to that?

  • Tebow316
  • Don

    There is politics and there is patriotism, two separate ideals.  Some people too often confuse one with the other when they’re combined.  For instance, if one is serving patriotically or for other reasons in the Marine Corps, politics must be kept separate when in the line of duty. 

    You can vote for whomever you want but the president is your commander in chief.  Tough-guy Thomas couldn’t hold up to Marine Corps standards (or other branches of the military).  He’s padded and protected on the ice, and lives a priveledged, high income life off the ice.

  • Bridgette70

    I am a African American hockey mom. My daughter has played the game since she was seven. We have experience our share of being treated differently. Despite it all, I have become a faithful hockey fan and my daughter has even opened two Bruins games. I say all that to note that hockey’s players and fan base is expanding. What Tim Thomas did was disrespectful, rude and coward. Tim Thomas makes a political statement and then turns around and says it is not political. I mean really, does he take us for fools. He was not going to Washington to be honored by both parties. This was at the request of the President. Now, I went out of my way to get my daughter to Bruins parade in Boston. My now 16 year old was so excited to see Tim Thomas. Only now to experience this disappointment from Tim Thomas poor judgement. This hockey moma for Obama is no longer a fan!!! Disrespect is disrespect and I don’t care how you dress it up.

  • Christine_ouellette

    Interesting….. Tim Thomas didn’t have a problem representing his country at the Olympics. I think it was in poor taste and lacking manners.

  • Irishiam22

    I stand by Tim Thomas’ declined offer to do a “meet-n-greet” with Mr. Obama,sleazy ploy that appears to have become a ritual among Presidents.Tim is wearing his heart on his sleeve,and making known his personal displeasure with the state of the federal government,as it is today.If you LISTENED to his reasoning……actions speak louder than words.The former Soviet Union has more freedom today than the USA. Our nation is in its’ final days as the worlds “Super-Power” as happens to all great empires,and a “Top-Heavy” government,with folks who put profit before people,is in for a “Humpty-Dumpy” type event.Power corrupts….and that is still the case.As was once a reference to a sports team is its’ waning days,stick a fork in the US federal government,it is done!!

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