RALEIGH NC - JANUARY 28: Tim Thomas of the Boston Bruins answers questions during NHL All Star Player Media Availability apart of the 2011 NHL All-Star Weekend at the Raleigh Convention Center on January 28 2011 in Raleigh North Carolina. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Tim Thomas' decision to skip the Bruins' White House ceremony has already created a distraction on what should have been a great day for the franchise. Thomas should have seen this coming.
Not all of it was favorable to Thomas, but he had some support.
Keep in mind, too, that most of this activity came long before anyone knew the real reason for Thomas backing out of the trip. That statement from Thomas didn't come until later in the day Monday.
Naturally, I felt the need to chime in.
No issue with Tim Thomas not going to the White House. I would never turn it down, but it's not a law that you have to do it.— Bruce Ciskie (@BruceCiskie) January 23, 2012
In all honesty, I don't have a problem with such a decision. It says more about a person when they stand by their convictions, no matter how wrong you may think they are, than when they eschew their convictions to tow a party or company line.
(Oddly enough, the idea that so many in Washington seem willing to set their own feelings aside in favor of divisive partisan politics could be a huge part of Thomas' problem with government.)
Thomas did what he felt was right, and he did it knowing he would probably end up having to answer for the decision, at least in the short term.
Thomas did his best to diffuse the controversy with his explanation for skipping out on his team's day with President Obama.
"I believe the Federal government has grown out of control, threatening the Rights, Liberties, and Property of the People.
This is being done at the Executive, Legislative, and Judicial level. This is in direct opposition to the Constitution and the Founding Fathers vision for the Federal government.
Because I believe this, today I exercised my right as a Free Citizen, and did not visit the White House. This was not about politics or party, as in my opinion both parties are responsible for the situation we are in as a country. This was about a choice I had to make as an INDIVIDUAL.
This is the only public statement I will be making on this topic. TT"
You don't get to say something isn't about politics when it's blatantly obvious it is, but that's neither here nor there.
I buy the part where he basically says this has nothing to do with the party that has control of the White House. No reason not to believe him, frankly.
My issue isn't so much with his words. It's with what he created by doing this.
Thomas is -- whether he likes it or not -- one of the most visible players on his team. He was the goalie whose tires everyone but Roberto Luongo pumped on the Bruins' way to the Cup last spring. He had two shutouts in the Final, including in the Bruins' riot-inciting Game 7 win. He got to show off his acting skills in one of the Discover "Peggy" ads.
His decision to skip a newsworthy White House ceremony -- one that was attended by every other player and executive and coach, and live-tweeted by television voice Jack Edwards -- has drawn plenty of scrutiny. Appearing on NHL Network with Bill Pidto and E.J. Hradek Monday, forward Patrice Bergeron didn't get three questions into the interview before he was asked about his feelings.
(Bergeron, by the way, smartly deflected the question as much as he could, trying to respect Thomas' decision, whether he agreed with it or not.)
Monday night, the Bruins issued a statement through team president Cam Neely.
"As an organization we were honored by President Obama's invitation to the White House. It was a great day and a perfect way to cap our team's achievement from last season. It was a day that none of us will soon forget. We are disappointed that Tim chose not to join us, and his views certainly do not reflect those of the Jacobs family or the Bruins organization. This will be the last public comment from the Bruins organization on this subject."
(Interesting, I'd say, that Neely talks about Thomas' "views" without using a word associated with "politics." Careful choice of words here by the club.)
Thomas has created a distraction for his team. And if Neely, Claude Julien, and the gang think this story is going to go away because they want it to, they're probably going to be disappointed. The Bruins play at Washington Tuesday night. The PR staff can shield Thomas from the media during the morning skate, but good luck keeping the vultures from circling his locker after the game.
And if he won't talk, reporters aren't idiots. They know that they'll be expected by their editors, news directors, or other immediate bosses to ask any Bruins player who is willing to give interviews about Thomas.
When All-Star Weekend kicks off, I'm sure Thomas will be asked to answer some questions for the media. He's crazy if he doesn't think he'll be asked to address his decision.
If there's any silver lining for Thomas and the Bruins, it's that the All Star Break is near. It works out perfectly for this story to go away before Boston returns to meaningful action next week.
In the meantime, it's a rather unnecessary distraction that overshadows what really should have been a wonderful and historic day for the Boston Bruins organization.