Guest Column by Brian Westrick
It’s one of our most sacred rights in the United States. Our freedom of speech is the cornerstone to everything we hold dear. It rings especially poignant when we use it to criticize our own government.
But when Tim Thomas of the Stanley Cup Champion Boston Bruins chose not to attend the White House to meet the president last week, the issue was less about his right to express his beliefs and more about abandoning his team.
A team-first attitude is something that every coach and manager looks for in a player. Individual achievements in sports are great and shouldn’t have their importance marginalized, but they should not be overstated because, ultimately, the team is what comes first. At least it should come first.
Thomas showed that his political disagreement with the current administration mattered more to him than being part of his team.
As a former athlete, I can say for certain that regardless of what you read or hear on SportsCenter, the Bruins’ dressing room is going to be very uncomfortable for a while. The B’s lost their only game since the event, a 5-3 loss to a struggling Washington Capitals team, while Tim Thomas was on the bench.
The tradition of visiting the White House goes back to 19th century baseball clubs, but the practice really took off in the 1980s during the Reagan administration. The practice has never been about politics; it is merely a team activity.
It seems very doubtful that every member of the some 35 teams that have visited the White House during the Obama administration agreed with the president, who has been in office during one of the most divided political climates in recent memory.
“All it has to do is with me. But it’s separate from hockey. That’s my personal life and those are my personal views. Those are my personal beliefs. It has nothing to do with hockey. It has nothing to do with this All-Star Game. It has nothing to do with the Boston Bruins.”
I couldn’t have said it better myself, Timmy. It is about you, not the team. You made that exceedingly clear by ditching your team over a personal belief.
Between refusing the invitation by the president and a large public statement posted on his Facebook page, Thomas has had all the subtlety and tact of a bull in a china shop. He has brought upon himself all the criticism and all the questioning of his commitment to his team. While investigating this issue, the theme of Thomas’s superiors wanting him to attend the White House tends to pop up.
Although everyone involved has pointed out that Thomas had a right to choose not to go to the White House, team president Cam Neely, general manager Peter Chiarelli and head coach Claude Julien wanted him to go.
In addition to his lack of respect he displayed for the rest of his team who went, he also demonstrated a lack of respect for the wishes of those who are above him within the franchise.
The fact must be expressly stated to many of his supporters that no person is saying that Thomas had no concrete right to express himself politically by refusing the invitation.
Just that by doing so, he’s being a selfish prima donna who considers himself bigger than his entire team.