Is There a Difference Between Tim Thomas Boycotting the White House in 2012 and Braden Holtby Doing the Same in 2019?

Tim Thomas’ 2011 season is arguably the best single-season by a goalie in hockey history: he won the Vezina Trophy for season’s best goalie, the Conn Smythe for playoffs MVP, and back-stopped the Boston Bruins to a Stanley Cup victory. Whether it was during the regular season or the Stanley Cup Playoffs, Tim Thomas was practically unbeatable in net. Yet, in a season where Thomas could almost do no wrong, it was his actions after the season that drew the most ire. Thomas decided that he was not going to go with the rest of the Bruins to the White House, and instead skip the ceremonial visit and a chance to meet with then President Barack Obama. Thomas was excoriated by the Boston sports media and the sports world at large for boycotting. Now in 2019, Braden Holtby, goalie for the 2018 Stanley Cup Champion Washington Capitals, is planning on skipping his team’s White House visit due to the policies of Donald Trump. While the reasons for bypassing the White House drastically differ between Thomas and Holtby, there is no difference in the final act and there should be no difference how you react; if you praised Thomas and are bashing Holtby, you are a hypocrite… and if you are applauding what Holtby is doing while you castigated Thomas… you are a hypocrite.

Most probably look at the two scenarios and think there are differences. Sure. Some. For Holtby, he believes he had to “stay true to his values.” He went further in the hopes of clarifying; “My family and myself, we believe in a world where humans are treated with respect regardless of your stature, what you’re born into. … You’re asked to choose what side you’re on, and I think it’s pretty clear what side I’m on.” Holtby is an active supporter of LGBT rights and clearly does not approve of the policies of Donald Trump and his administration.

The goalie is also boycotting in an effort to show solidarity with Stanley Cup teammate Devante Smith-Pelly who has said of Donald Trump, “The things that he spews are straight-up racist and sexist,” said Smith-Pelly via Canada’s Postmedia. “Some of the things he’s said are pretty gross. I’m not too into politics, so I don’t know all his other views, but his rhetoric I definitely don’t agree with.”

Tim Thomas’ reasons for boycotting were just as vehement and he clarified his stance in a now semi-famous Facebook post:

“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. TT”

Holtby clearly disagrees with the policies of the current president and his administration, displaying his disapproval by not going to the White House. Thomas was against essentially everyone and everything; clearly angry over what he believed were the excesses of Big Government (maybe he was onto something–at least fiscally). Although Holtby is Canadian, he and Thomas were both engaging in one of the most American things one can do; voicing displeasure with the government and finding a peaceful avenue through which to protest. Maybe you agree with Holtby. Or maybe you agree with Thomas. Hell, maybe you think they both are right. Either way, they are both well within their rights to take an RSVP from the White House and toss them right in the trash. If this was a barrel of tea and they threw it into some water in Boston, it could not be more of an American move.

However, there are going to be people who applaud the move by Holtby, yet denigrated Thomas’. The vast majority of the articles written in the wake of Thomas’ refusal to go to the White House chastised him for what they deemed was a selfish move.

Now those same outlets see no issue with what Holbty is doing.

Same scenario, same position, completely different reactions, and editorials. The difference in how the two stories have been handled is striking in its simplicity. For Tim Thomas, it was all editorials. Not only were journalists relaying Thomas’ refusal to visit the White House, but they were penning editorials condemning him for his actions. The response to Holtby’s decision is more refreshing; thus far, all the coverage has been straightforward (“here are the facts of the matter, here are some quotes from the goalie, publish the article”).

It could very well be because refusing to go to the White House is more commonplace in 2019. Maybe Americans are more attuned to protests against the President in our current climate. Trump withdrew an invitation to the Golden State Warriors after they made it clear they would not make the trip the White House. A portion of the Philadelphia Eagles were ready to head to Washington before the White House decided it was all or nothing. However, back in 2012, a player boycotting the ceremonial visit was something new. And Tim Thomas was treated like persona non grata for not going. Now seven years later, under a different administration, and a boycott of the White House is either met with straightforward reporting, or the editorials are laudatory.

What Holtby is doing is 100% the right thing to do. He believes the current President’s values and agenda are at odds with his own, therefore Holtby is exercising his 1st Amendment right and protesting. Thomas in 2012 disagreed with the values of not just President Obama, but of both political parties and engaged in his 1st Amendment right to protest. The only difference is one goalie did it from one side of the aisle, and the other is doing from the other side. When juxtaposed, there is no difference in the acts of each goalie, but people are going to react differently and reveal their own biases. In doing so, they will also unveil how true they are to their own principles. Is one goalie’s protest more worthy of their praise than the other even if the situations around them are the same?

Standing up for what you believe in takes courage. To try and live a life according to a set of principle’s and to not shy away from those principles is no easy task. Especially when you know it is going to create some controversy and you might be the recipient of serious backlash. But sometimes life pushes you into corners and asks you the gravest of questions; what are you going to do when you feel your values are under attack? Will you be brave enough to stick to those values and fight against those that challenge them? That is one of the most important questions in life, and how you answer and respond makes you who you are. Braden Holtby and Tim Thomas know who they are. They know what they believe in, and they stand up for those principles. However, plenty has happened in the seven years since Tim Thomas did not go to Obama’s White House. Now boycotting the visit is commonplace, with entire teams refusing to go. In 2012, Thomas was belittled for his stance. Braden Holtby is getting no such treatment. Nor should he. But if you accept Holtby boycotting the White House in 2019, yet besmirched Thomas for doing so in 2012, it is not Tim Thomas’s values that need adjusting.