Yeah, some Latinos like hockey and some Latinos we know are huge Boston Bruin fans (like our boss), so when outlets reported today that Bruins goalie and Conn Smythe winner Tim Thomas boycotted the team's White House celebration for political reasons, you would expect some criticism. Thomas, a staunch Tea Party Patriot who lists Glenn Beck as his hero, did not join his team in Washington DC today. Thomas, one of the top goalies in the NHL, put himself and his politics over team, and is another example of what is so wrong in this country: we no longer respect the White House and believe that partisanship rules.
As reported by Yahoo! Sports:
Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli confirmed that Thomas had told him months ago he would not attend the White House event due to his political and ideological differences with the Obama administration. Chiarelli said he had tried to convince Thomas to attend the event "over the last couple months" to no avail.
"He chose not to come. The reasons behind it I think he'll make the media aware through his Facebook," said Chiarelli.
The GM said that he could have mandated Thomas attend the event, but chose not to. "I can require someone to attend a team event. If they don't, I can suspend him. But I'm not going to suspend Tim. Whatever his position is isn't representative of the Boston Bruins or my own. But I'm not going to suspend him."
Bruins team president Cam Neely said the decision was Thomas's and the team honored his choice.
"Everybody has their own opinions and political beliefs. He chose not to join us," said Neely. "We certainly would have liked to have him come and join us but that's his choice. All the guys came except for Tim. It's his decision and his choice."
The article continues with a defense of Thomas' actions:
Good on Thomas for using this moment — where a professional sports team participates in what's both an honor for their 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. Sean Avery did the same thing:Potentially alienating his teammates by taking a political stand on gay marriage.
If he's celebrated and Thomas is demonized, what does that say about our real tolerance of free speech? That it's only free when we agree with it?
(And for the "separation of politics and hockey" crowd — that flies out the window when you agree to be a backdrop to a speech in an election year. Or any year.)
There's a difference between freedom of speech and speech without consequence, of course. This is the moment when Tim Thomas, the most valuable player to his team last June, did something that detracted from his teammates' celebration. This is the moment when, for better or worse, he becomes something more than the blue-collar hockey player from Flint with the great backstory and the sterling save percentage.
And as long as he's willing to accept that his absence from an event that even Tomas Kaberle attended has overshadowed this day and changed his profile as an athlete, then like Cam Neely I'll respect the decision.