When we first read on the Twitterz that Tim Thomas was skipping out on the traditional "Stanley Cup winners meet the President trip to the White House" we rolled our eyes and wondered what was going through the old boy’s head. Now we aren’t so sure what to think.
Thomas released a statement on the matter:
"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.
Now if there is anyone less qualified to speak on matters of politics and protest it is your ol’ pal Wanye. But we can set up a bit of a debate on this rare instance when American politics and the NHL collide.
THE ONE SIDE
One can argue that it is a tremendous honour to meet the President of the United States – regardless of your political affiliations or whatever axes you have to grind with the Government. Getting a tour of the White House, meeting the Commander in Chief and presenting him with the obligatory jersey is a once in a lifetime honour that most of us regular Joes couldn’t even hope to get.
One could make a convincing case that skipping out on something like this is not only disrespectful to your team but to the United States as a whole. These folks would say that hockey players have no business making protests like this.
Regardless of what you feel you should go to the White House like a good 2011 Cup Champion and keep your mouth shut and smile for the cameras.
ON THE OTHER HAND
One could also choose to admire the stance that Thomas has taken. His statement on the matter is amazingly lucid – how many other professional athletes have "excercised their rights as a Free Citizen" in a public manner like this? It also shows a level of awareness and thought – this clearly isn’t a simple matter of "I don’t like Obama therefore I won’t go to the White House."
It raises the visibility of a growing protest against the Government in the US and even made the headlines of our favourite consipiracy/economic blog Zero Hedge. There the support for Thomas in the comments section was very strong – until it devolved into Canucks hating (which was also quite entertaining):
Al Gorerhythm: Well done TT. I hope that it is not your last public statement on these matters though. We need folk in highly visible positions to spread the news. Kudos.
Arkadaba: As a Habs fan – well you know. Kudos to him for taking a stand. And he has a lot to lose like endorsements etc. (which he will). Should be NHL player of the year.
Because of Thomas’ protest, this is now making international headlines – here is a take from the Sydney Morning Herald:
"Goaltender Thomas insisted his decision to snub the ceremony with US President Barack Obama, a Democrat, was not a partisan gesture in favour of the opposing Republican party, but a decision based on his belief that the US government has too much influence on American individuals’ lives."
SO WHAT’S YOUR TAKE?
How do you read this whole thing? Do professional athletes have any business making political statements like this? Or should they keep their opinions to themselves and stick to what they know? We would cheerfully ship them to meet the ghost of Kim Jong Il if it meant the Oilers would win the Cup.
But we are a simple minded non-partisan after all.