Tim Thomas, Barack Obama, and free speech


 I was checking my BlackBerry yesterday when I was brought up with an “Urk!” by the following Providence Journal newsbrief:



 Bruins goalie Tim Thomas, the biggest hero of the team’s Stanley Cup championship run of last year, declined to join his teammates during today’s visit to the White House. Team officials indicated that the decision had to do with political differences. http://click1.ahbelo-news.com/yqkbzsllslsnqmwcnfwqgncscsnlppztswzptckbqlvvsc_cjcgdcqglqhg.gif



Partner is a big hockey fan.  I have a hard time watching the game with him: too fast, too violent, and I can’t even see the damned puck most of the time.  But I rejoiced with him when the Bruins won the Stanley Cup last year, and enjoyed watching the local victory celebrations.



Thomas was certainly the team hero: he’s widely considered to be the main reason they won the Cup.



But he cannot meet the President, or be seen at the White House, because he does not agree with him.




I could not stop thinking about this.  I investigated a bit further, and found that he is not only a far-right true believer, but a follower of Glenn Beck. 






I would have gladly forgiven him his beliefs, however, given that he’s such an excellent player.



But then he had to go thumb his nose at the White House.



Some questions:

  • What if it had been me and a president I detested – like, let’s say, George W. Bush?  It would have been tempting to snub him.  But, then again, it would have depended largely upon the reason for the invitation.  If it were for a personal achievement, like winning the Nobel Prize, I’d have told him to go stuff himself.  If it were this kind of honor – a team being celebrated as a group – I might well have swallowed my pride and gone, for the sake of my teammates.  Because – really – what would I have to lose by standing alongside someone with whom I disagreed?
  • Does Tim Thomas agree politically with all of his teammates?  I certainly hope so.  If he should ever learn that they don’t agree with him, he might not agree to appear on the same ice with them.
  • Does Tim Thomas think that President Obama is trying to make political points by appearing with a popular sports team?  Really, think about that one. If you stand alongside the President, which one of you will people notice first?  And (last I looked), New England / Boston athletes are generally detested by the rest of the country.  Obama’s doing the Bruins a favor, not vice versa.





Greg Wyshynski, a hockey blogger for Yahoo!, wrote a comment about this on Monday.  He makes the point that the team general manager and team president both tried to talk Thomas into going – in fact, they could have compelled his attendance – but in the end they gave up and respected his wishes.  He’s an American; he can do any damn fool thing he likes.



(Wyshynski makes a false comparison of Thomas’s no-show at the White House to Rangers player Sean Avery’s public support for gay marriage, and says that both are governed by free speech.  This is not an excellent comparison.  Thomas can say what he likes, and hold whatever beliefs he likes; that’s free speech.  Snubbing a White House invitation because you don’t like the current occupant is bad manners.)



And Wyshynski ends by pointing out that free speech has consequences.  This is his very well-written conclusion: “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.”



Same here.



Thomas may be a great hockey player, but he ain’t no hero around these parts no more.






About Loren Williams
Gay, partnered, living in Providence, working at a local university. Loves: books, movies, TV. Comments and recriminations can be sent to futureworld@cox.net.

One Response to Tim Thomas, Barack Obama, and free speech

  1. toosoxy says:

    He tried wayyyyy to hard to find a soap box here, and we all gave him one. Ridiculous. Well, he got what he wanted from his stunt…

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