Kevin Paul Dupont is a well-regarded hockey writer for the Boston Globe, but when it comes to political commentary, he leaves much to be desired. Mr. Dupont writes a column today — in typical Boston Globe sports columnist style — utterly lambasting Boston Bruins goalie Tim Thomas for conscientiously objecting to the obligatory White House photo op with President Obama yesterday. Thomas, who was playoff MVP in the Bruins’ run to the Stanley Cup (and for the record, was otherworldly), released a brief statement explaining his decision not to attend the event: “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.”
Mr. Dupont calls Thomas’s decision “shabby. Immature. Unprofessional. Self-centered. Bush league.” Yesterday’s event, he argues, “was not about politics and government until Thomas made it about politics and government.” But that is a silly claim. The White House championship team photo op is, like everything done for public consumption at the White House, a political event. It is a feel-good event that will get attention on ESPN and other outlets that may not cover politics on a regular basis. It is a chance for a president to show his lighter-side connection with the “Average Joe,” who watches sporting events when he’s not working 9-to-5.
Notably, no one at the Boston Globe complained when Red Sox owner John Henry and general manager Theo Epstein, both dyed-in-the-wool Democrats, opted out of the invites to the Bush White House after the 2007 World Series. Nor should they have. While there are considerations of common courtesy in deciding whether to accept such an invitation, a player, manager or owner might reasonably choose not to take part in a rah-rah event by a president that they do not support. You might accuse Tim Thomas of a lack of courtesy and even lack of consideration for his teammates, as Mr. Dupont does. His approach, however, is preferable to the “courageous” alternative suggested by Mr. Dupont, who argued that Thomas would have been better served by showing up and giving President Obama a piece of his mind. Now, how would that have been perceived in very blue Boston?
Mr. Dupont’s most woeful error, however, was in suggesting that Thomas’s disagreement with the current government equals a lack of love of country. “It was the same government yesterday, and will be today, that protected his country, his security, his family, and his right to make $5 million a year, all last season.” Tim Thomas was a U.S. Olympian and won a silver medal for his country. Mr. Dupont contends that someone “so disgusted with our government ought to turn in the sweater and the medal. It must be a horrible burden, if not a pox, to have them in his house.”
Tim Thomas’s objections to the excesses of government are entirely American, born of his love of country, not harbored in spite of it. I suspect his decision yesterday was carefully made, with due consideration of his team and his country. Sportswriters at the Globe can disagree with it, but you should not question the integrity of the man.