WILMINGTON - For the second time in three weeks, Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas has made political statements on Facebook and then refused to discuss them with reporters.
Thomas cited political reasons for his refusal to attend a White House reception hosted by President Obama Jan. 23 in recognition of the Bruins’ Stanley Cup championship. On Wednesday morning, Thomas posted an expression of his beliefs, saying, “I Stand with the Catholics in the fight for Religious Freedom.’’
Thomas’s statement grew out of his opposition to the Obama administration’s directive that insurance plans - including those affiliated with religious schools and hospitals - provide women with free access to contraceptives.
In his posting, Thomas also quoted Martin Niemoller, an anti-Nazi and German pastor, as saying:
“In Germany they came first for the Communists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist. Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn’t speak up because I was a Protestant. Then they came for me, and by that time no one was left to speak up.’’
Yesterday, the netminder stood by his privacy and “right to remain silent’’ when pressed by media surrounding his locker after practice at Ristuccia Arena.
Thomas said his hockey life and private life were separate and not to be blurred.
“I say that’s my personal life and that has absolutely nothing to do with the Bruins or hockey, and I’m going to use my right to remain silent,’’ Thomas said when peppered with questions about his latest Facebook post.
Asked if he had any other views to share, Thomas said, “If I do, I’ll do that in my personal life and not in this arena.’’
When it was pointed out that Facebook was a public forum, Thomas agreed.
“It is,’’ he said. “You have the right to ask the question, but I have the right to not answer the question.’’
Asked if his views generated any response - positive or negative - Thomas replied, “I think that’s my personal life and it has nothing to do with hockey or the Boston Bruins. I’m not going to comment on it in this forum.’’
When asked why he would post his political views on a public forum, then refuse to talk about it in the locker room, Thomas became testy.
“This is my job,’’ he said. “Facebook is my personal life. That’s why. If you guys don’t understand the difference between an individual and it having nothing to do with a job and an athlete and his personal life, then I think there’s a problem.
“I don’t think I’ve heard anybody support his opinions. But I’ve heard everybody say that we support him as a player - and we do.”Claude Julien, on Tim Thomas
“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 them on Facebook, if you like.’’
Thomas clearly became annoyed with the line of questioning and cut short another related query, threatening to end the interview.
“Enough of this,’’ he said. “This is my personal life and it has nothing to do with hockey or the Boston Bruins, and I’m not going to address it. You guys can keep asking. You can do this every day. From now on, the first question I get on it every day, I’m done interviewing for that day.’’
When asked if he had any regrets about posting the remarks about his political beliefs, Thomas followed through on his threat and ended the interview, stepping through the phalanx of cameras and microphones in front of his locker, saying, “I’m out - peace.’’
While Thomas’s statements seemed to cause a tempest outside the locker room, Bruins coach Claude Julien insisted that his goalie’s political views had not posed a distraction to the team.
Thomas was summoned Wednesday night in Buffalo to replace Tuukka Rask at 1:52 of the second period. He inherited a 3-0 deficit and was unable to hold the line, giving up three more goals.
“I don’t think I’ve heard anybody - starting from our owners to our coaches to our management - I don’t think I’ve heard anybody support his opinions,’’ Julien said. “But I’ve heard everybody say that we support him as a player - and we do.
“We’ve got good team chemistry in that dressing room. As I’ve said before, we don’t mix politics with the hockey team and that continues to happen.
“It’s probably something that people would like to think because of how poorly we’ve played lately, but I assure you there’s no issues in the dressing room and there never will be.’’
Thomas made headlines last month when he decided not to join the Bruins at their White House reception, posting his reasons on his Facebook page.
“I believe the Federal government has grown out of control, threatening the Rights, Liberties, and Property of the People,’’ Thomas wrote. “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 rights as a Free Citizen, and did not visit the White House.’’
Julien reiterated that Thomas’s political expressions have not become divisive in the locker room.
“We’ve got a really good group of players in there that don’t let those kinds of things bog them down,’’ Julien said. “If it had, I’d be telling right now that I’d feel it, and there’s absolutely nothing going on.
“Guys are just going about their business. It’s certainly not a distraction and will never be used as an excuse, because it isn’t one.’’Michael Vega can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.