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.