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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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