Tim Thomas and the Separation of Sports and Politics

Dustin OlsonContributor IJanuary 24, 2012

SUNRISE, FL - JANUARY 16: Goaltender Tim Thomas #30 of the Boston Bruins warms up prior to the game against the Florida Panthers on January 16, 2012 at the BankAtlantic Center in Sunrise, Florida.  (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)
Joel Auerbach/Getty Images

Tim Thomas, if you haven't already heard, is a member of the Tea Party. 

That is, of course, his right as a human being. 

It is also his right to refuse an invitation from his Commander-in-Chief to visit the White House for a non-partisan photo-op to celebrate the achievement of winning a Stanley Cup with the rest of his Boston Bruin teammates.

And refuse he did.

This wasn't hard to see coming. Thomas's helmet boasts the Tea Party mantra "DON'T TREAD ON ME" and he frequently cites Glenn Beck as a personal hero.

As expected, the response to the White House snub has come fast and furious and, as Tim Thomas surely would have known, it's all the talk in the hockey world. 

In an election year that promises to be as contentious as any in recent memory, there are few areas of respite for anyone who wants to escape the partisan musings of politicians and the rants of hard-liners on both sides of the political spectrum who frequently take our discourse hostage. Many of us, myself included, turn to sports when the rest of the noise is just too much.

Tim Thomas took that escape away from us this afternoon and for what? Because his convictions are so strong that he can't possibly stand in the same room with a center-left president? 

Now we're all left to talk about it. Boston fans will have to reconcile the idea that their goaltender has absolutely no respect for their democratically elected president just as New York fans had to come to terms with Carlos Delgado's refusal to stand during ballpark renditions of "God Bless America" when the Mets signed him in 2005. 

WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 23:  U.S. President Barack Obama (R) shakes hands with hockey player Brad Marchand (L) of the Boston Bruins as team general manager Peter Chiarelli (2nd L) looks on during a East Room event at the White House January 23, 2012 in W
Alex Wong/Getty Images

Athletes have plenty of off-time to pursue their political objectives. Is it too much to ask, as fans, that when they're in uniform or representing their team in an official capacity that they keep their opinions to themselves so that we may enjoy their considerable talents and forget about the world outside? 

Many will no doubt commend Thomas's move as courageous; brave is he who would risk so much grief and be willing to see his actions overshadow an event cherished by his organization to keep true to his beliefs.

This isn't about courage. This is about a guy whose ideology is built on a foundation so shaky he couldn't bare the thought that his Beckian view of Barack Obama as a socialist dictator might be compromised if the secret Muslim he derides actually turns out to be a nice guy who's not, in fact, bent on the destruction of the free market.

It's the fundamental problem on the fringes of both the left and right: No discussion. No compromise.

If a democrat is so repulsive to Tim Thomas, what the hell is he doing in Boston? You want to talk courage? Why doesn't he ask for a trade to protest the only state in the union that mandates health insurance? 

If Tim Thomas views Barack Obama the way Glenn Beck views Barack Obama (it's fair to assume he does), than surely he should eschew any socialistic inclinations. Why then is he a member of a labor union? Can he not opt out? Will he try?

I think not. 

Let's be real. This is not Muhammad Ali going to jail to protest the Vietnam War. This a petty move by a selfish athlete who wants what should be a highlight in the storied history of the Bruins franchise to be all about him.

So now, because there's no avoiding it, we'll have no choice but to dissect the politics of each player as they weigh in on Thomas's decision. We'll form opinions of those players that have absolutely nothing to do with their performance on the ice. Politics will infect what should be a needed escape for all of us. 

All because Tim Thomas couldn't shake a man's hand.


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