by Joe Tasca on 01/24/12 at 09:00 AM ET
Not surprisingly, the decision by Tim Thomas not to attend Monday’s ceremony at the White House honoring the Bruins’ Stanley Cup championship team has generated some heated debate. A firestorm is always ignited when a star athlete snubs a presidential invitation.
Healthy debate is good, and convincing arguments can be made on both sides of the ledger. Some people think Thomas is out of line. Others say he’s exercising a personal right. Regardless of your political affiliation, you have to respect Thomas for having the courage to stand up for something he believes in passionately.
The Bruins’ response to the situation is interesting on a number of levels. Immediately, the organization went into damage control mode. President Cam Neely issued a statement saying the club was disappointed in Thomas’ decision. He made it clear that Thomas’ political views by no means reflect those of the Bruin franchise.
General Manager Peter Chiarelli followed that up by saying he spent months trying to convince Thomas to change his mind, to no avail. Chiarelli went on to say Thomas wouldn’t be suspended for his actions, even though club policy normally requires all players to attend team events.
The Bruins are trying to have it both ways. On one hand, team officials openly admonish Thomas for what he did, but at the same time, they’re refusing to take corrective action. Politics aside, if a player violates club policy by not attending a team event, he should, in fact, be reprimanded.
If Tim Thomas stayed home while his teammates were forced to serve season ticket holders at the annual Bruins “Tip-A-Player” dinner, he’d be suspended in a heartbeat. This, despite the fact that most people wouldn’t notice or care about Thomas skipping such an event. It’s not particularly newsworthy. At least, not compared to blowing off the President.
In that regard, the Bruins wilted. By publicly stating Thomas wouldn’t face supplemental discipline for ditching a team event, when, if the circumstances were different, he would’ve been punished, Peter Chiarelli is clearly treating his star netminder with kid gloves. He’s giving Thomas preferential treatment, and it’s not fair to the other players on the club who had to spend Monday afternoon at the White House.
The only way the Bruins can justify not suspending Thomas is by standing by his decision not to attend yesterday’s ceremony. Neely and Chiarelli could’ve come out and expressed disappointment in Thomas’ absence, while also supporting his right to express himself politically. Instead, the two put their respective tails between their legs, distancing themselves and the franchise from the situation. In doing so, they failed to respond appropriately to a star player who voluntarily ignored a team mandate.
It’s worth noting that Tim Thomas is one of the nicest pro athletes in the world. Anyone who’s had the pleasure of meeting him knows the Flint native is extremely amicable. When Thomas played in Providence ten years ago, I couldn’t help but notice how his demeanor during post-game interviews never changed, regardless of whether he won or lost. He always had a smile on his face, and the fact that he’s an NHL media darling these days is no surprise to this Rhode Islander.
With that said, we all make mistakes. In this instance, Thomas and the Bruins are equally culpable.
Those who disagree with Thomas’ decision believe he should’ve gone to the White House out of respect for the President. The argument is a valid one, but inevitably, it’s a separate issue. If nothing else, Thomas should’ve been there out of respect for his teammates.
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About Tasca's Take
Tasca's Take is written by Joe Tasca. Born and raised in Westerly, Rhode Island, Joe works as a broadcaster for seven radio stations in southern New England. Whether that's a testament to his on-air ability or because he has a desparate need for money is debatable.
Joe spends his summers playing golf, enjoying the beauty of Misquamicut Beach, and wining and dining girls who are easily awed by the mere presence of a radio personality. During the winter months, he can usually be found taking in a hockey game somewhere in North America. In the spring, he spends much of his time in botanical gardens tiptoeing through the tulips, while autumn is a time to frolic with his golden retrievers through piles of his neighbors’ leaves.