The 1869 visit of the Cincinnati Red Stockings to the White House started a long-lasting tradition of sports teams and athletes getting attention from the Oval Office and personal congratulations from the president.
From Super Bowl Champions to Stanley Cup Champions, some of the greatest names in history—Babe Ruth, Emmitt Smith, Lance Armstrong and Wayne Gretzky included—have been honored with a trip to the nation’s capital.
Whether or not the players agree with the party politics of the President of the United States doesn’t matter, because that isn’t what the trip is about, right?
Not according to the most recent White House snub by 2010 Stanley Cup Champion and goalie for the Boston Bruins Tim Thomas, who clarifies in a Facebook post:
"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”
This is why people attend sporting events as a hobby—to escape the reality of politics. Here, Thomas oversteps that societal rule and mixes the two together.
Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick didn’t seem very pleased in a radio interview during his monthly “Ask the Governor” program on WTKK-FM.
“He’s a phenomenal hockey player and he’s entitled to his views,” Patrick said. “It just feels like we are losing in this country basic courtesy and grace.”
Various writers and media personalities have slammed Thomas for his snub, including fans on Twitter.
I have to agree. To paraphrase, the visit isn’t about party politics, but about being a part of such a rich and storied history in professional hockey. This is about the players, the teams, the fans and perhaps the most prestigious sporting award next to the World Cup of Soccer—the Stanley Cup.
The Stanley Cup was first donated by Gov. General Lord Stanley in 1893 to be presented to amateur hockey champion’s in Canada. It wasn’t until 1926 when the NHL took control of the Cup and started printing every champion's name on the award that includes names such as Bobby Orr, Guy LaFleur, Wayne Gretzky and Marguerite Norris, the first woman to be engraved on the Stanley Cup, as the President of the Detroit Red Wings.
Thomas has, in my opinion, spat on this tradition. He’s not the first, and probably not the last. Dan Hampton, National Football League (NFL) Hall of Fame Defensive Tackle of the 1985 Super Bowl Champion Chicago Bears “wasn’t a fan of the guy” in the White House when President Obama invited the team that was long overdue for their recognition.
Athletes need to be a part of the team off the field as they are on the field. Go get your ups and support the team, the organization, and most of all, the fans.