Silver Lining: Moustaches are cool

We all knew it was coming, didn’t we? Tim Thomas was questioned by the Boston media today about the comments he made on his facebook page yesterday. Chief among these questions was, “What do you mean by this?”

As many of us expected Thomas has kept his hardline stance of pleading the fifth in response to the questioning from media today, shooting down every question directed to him about the comment.

“You have the right to ask the question, but I have the right to not answer the question,” said Thomas.

“This is my job,” he added. “Facebook is my personal life. That’s why. If you guys don’t understand the difference between an individual and what they do as a job, or an athlete and his personal life, then I think there’s a problem.

“I don’t think that when you become an athlete, that you sign away your right to be an individual and to have your own views and to be able to post something on Facebook if you’d like.”

Thomas claims that the comments are part of his personal life, completely removed from his role as a goaltender in the NHL, and therefore he has no obligation to comment on them.

Here’s the scrum.

I get what Thomas is trying to do here, trying to deflect attention away from himself. That being said, the grounds on which he is doing it are faulty. Truth be told, I’ve wrestled with the obligations an athlete has to the media in the past, and for the most part I think they’re pretty loose. As much as it is counter-intuitive for someone who fancies themselves as part of the media, I don’t see the need to force athletes in general to speak with the press because I have trouble believing that you can get any sort of meaningful perspective from an athlete in that professional setting. We all have our stock NHL interview response for impressions and it’s because they rarely reach beyond the friendly confines of “Um, uh” and “moving the feet, getting shots on net and doing the little things right.” Athletes are people, and like most people you don’t learn the most meaningful parts about them at work.

In Thomas’ case, it’s getting hairy because of the storm he has created. There’s categorically nothing wrong with expressing your political views, but when you’re a public figure like Thomas problems arise when you express them ambiguously. For those of you who don’t recall Thomas used Facebook to explain why he chose not to attend the Bruins’ White House visit. 117 words on a website is far from a political manifesto and refusing to offer an explanation to what is, in Thomas’ mind at the very least, a cohesive thought process which has created a valid argument doesn’t help things. Moreover, this is not a private matter contrary to the stance Thomas has taken. Joe Haggerty in Boston has argued why, stating:

However, Facebook is a public online forum. The stance that political postings on his Facebook page are “personal” statements is contradictory, given that Thomas is an extremely public figure given his superstar status as the best goaltender in the world.

Haggerty is right here. Facebook is a public online forum, and especially so for the medium within Facebook Thomas has chosen to use. It would be one thing if Thomas was using a private profile which you or I are accustomed to (if you are famous enough to have a fan page, Hi!), but simply put Thomas wasn’t. He was using a Facebook Fan Page for Tim Thomas – Athlete. That’s how it is classified by the network itself, meaning it’s a platform for Tim Thomas, as an athlete, or his PR team to pass along his content or views. An equivalent case would be me using the Backhand Shelf page (which you should like, by the way) to go off about this, that or the other thing and then refusing to explain to our readers later.

I couldn’t care less about the side of the political/cultural/religious/whatever spectrum Thomas is arguing from because it’s immaterial under the circumstances. Plus, as someone who isn’t in Thomas’ head his views are unclear at best. With that in mind, Thomas would do both himself and the Bruins a big favour if he just answered everything in one shot. To deflect questions because you incorrectly believe what counts as public vs. private only exacerbates the problem and distracts your teammates, not to mention it draws into question how steadfast he is in his stance if he’s unwilling to defend them beyond the spectrum of a Facebook post.

Normally I have no problem with athletes turning down the opportunity to answer questions, but in this case Tim needs to bite the bullet and speak up. He’s only making things worse for himself and the Bruins and that is not going to change until he puts a definitive end to it.

This is hopefully the last we talk about Tim Thomas for a long time.

Comments (6)

  1. There is a significant difference that Thomas is entitled to argue that the press refuses to see. When he is being interviewed in a press conference he is speaking as a member of the Boston Bruins.

    In my case, I work for the government. If I were to be interviewed at work it would be inappropriate to say anything political. However, my job should not prevent me from speaking my mind after hours.

    While I support Thomas’ courage, I hope as a Habs fan, that he doesn’t have the same luck as Michael Jordon who also snubbed The White House. You may recall he went on to lead The Bulls to a threepeat.

  2. Joe Haggerty is an obnoxious pain in the ass who’s been badgering Thomas and relentlessly tweeting his indignation about him since the White House visit. Frankly, I’m surprised Thomas didn’t tell him where to get off; IMHO he has every right to do so.

    Full disclosure – I am a lifelong liberal and I vehemently disagree with Thomas’s political stance. I also believe he has every right to express those beliefs on his Facebook page, and to keep them separate from his workplace, just as any of us is allowed to do.

    “Answering everything in one shot,” wouldn’t put an end to this ridiculous shit-stirring the Boston media are focused on. It would only drag it out. The only way to put an end to it is to do exactly what he’s doing. If the Boston media want to debate him, they can friend him on Facebook (or whatever they do) and have at it.

    I’m a Bruins fan, and I don’t give a damn about Thomas’s political views or facebook rants or whatever. He’s still the same guy he always was, and as long as he’s not harming anyone or breaking laws or running for political office, he can hold whatever opinions he wants. I’d have a problem with him if he was running for governor. I don’t have a problem because he’s a goaltender.

    • Thanks for the response.

      Let the record show I’m not a Haggerty fan, I just thought it was interesting that a noted Bruins homer was pushing this issue so hard.

      • You’re welcome, and looking back, I’m sorry if I come off as rightly pissed – I’m not pissed at YOU, I’m pissed at the media perpetuating this nonsense. I know several people who have ceased following Haggerty on Twitter because they’re sick of his harping. As a longtime member of the fourth estate myself, the erosion of professional standards grates on me. Hence the ranting.

    • I disagree. If Thomas airs his views in public, such as not going to the White House or putting a message on his very public facebook page, he is opening himself up to questions. It doesn’t matter if he’s at work or not.

      If a politician, independent of his job, posted something controversial on his facebook page, will he not get questioned over it while at work? Will he not be expected to respond in some way to the controversy?

      Thomas is the one making this controversy. He posts something on a public forum and then refuses to discuss it. It’s an interesting tactic, because it leaves no room for debate. It’s just a propaganda technique that he’s using in order to try and sell the right wing viewpoint to a bunch of people who don’t follow politics. Think about it, sports fans don’t follow politics, but will watch this stuff. If he responds to debate, then the other side gets a chance to air their views, exactly what he doesn’t want. He just wants fans to see his side, no other. Frankly, I think it’s a very smart propaganda tool, but also very underhanded. I like that people are trying to call him on it, because he needs to be confronted on the things he says in PUBLIC.

      One final note: if a hockey player says something racist, sexist, homophobic, etc in public, are we not allowed to ask them questions about it in interviews? I mean, that’s their personal life, interviews are their professional lives…From what you say that should be left alone, even though it would be a public statement insulting millions. I just can’t agree…

  3. I’m conflicted. On one hand I agree with Tim Thomas’ choice of not responding to the media and on the other hand, he kind of brought it on himself.

    I don’t agree with Tim Thomas’ political views at all. I’m not a bleeding heart liberal but I am liberal enough to probably piss off Mr. Thomas (ha-ha). I am however a huge fan of the Bruins and of Tim Thomas. He is the best goaltender of my generation….period, end of story! I’m a fan of his game and sportsmanship. His views will not sway that for me.

    With that being said, I think everyone in this country has the freedom to speak their mind when they want and where they want (without inflicting emotional harm on to another that is). It is a freedom that every political party cherishes. Tim executed his right by using Facebook to do so. This is something we are all guilty of. HOWEVER… the difference between me and Tim Thomas is… I am not a public figure with 10s of thousands of followers. If he is going to use the “it’s my personal life” plea, then he shouldn’t be using a public forum to voice his views, opinions and explanations.

    The media is doing their job too. Albeit there may be some annoying loud mouth journalists but it’s still a story in their eyes. Why? Because Tim Thomas the best goalie in the world, stanley cup champion, snubbed our president and is now using his PUBLIC facebook fan page to voice his opinions and views. Does this have anything to do with his ‘job’? Nope, but it’s still a story. If he didn’t want to be in the public light with his views and opinions, he should have voiced it on his PRIVATE facebook account.

    As far as the White House issue, if he didn’t want the focus to be on him, he should have bit his tongue and put his political beliefs aside for one day, for his team. Hell I didn’t agree with George W as a matter of fact I think his 2 terms in office began this downward spiral we have been on for what seems to be forever….but if he invited me to the white house to honor me for my work, I’m not going to decline it. I kind of think by doing so, it’s slapping America in the face. We prove to all of those countries that hate us, that we do not have respect for the person we as a people voted in to office. We also prove to them that Democracy can be ignorant bliss. That’s just my humble opinion.

    Now on the other hand. I agree with the fact that what he says or believes in, does not have anything to do with his job. That’s right it doesn’t. It doesn’t effect what he does for a living. It doesn’t change his game play. He is a real class act on the ice and with his team mates. He’s excellent at what he does. I also agree that he has every right to voice his opinion. As an American I can respect his opinion and not agree with it. He shouldn’t have to speak to the media about his ‘opinion’. It has nothing to do with his job for the Boston Bruins. BUT that’s where we get back to the whole public figure thing and using a public outlet to talk about it but when questioned you don’t want to answer.

    Maybe Tim Thomas just needs to shut it and play hockey! Just sayin’!

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