Individual Actions have Team Consequences

The Tim Thomas story extended to the NHL All-Star Game Sunday with team owner Jeremy Jacobs coming to the defense of his netminder.

No doubt, you’ve heard the story.

Boston Bruins goalie Tim Thomas decided not to attend a White House ceremony honoring the Bruins for winning the Stanley Cup. He said he chose not to go because he views the federal government as being “out of control”.

He’s been criticized for his decision and says the the controversy is the media’s fault. He said: “This is all media-driven and it has been from the start. Everything that I said and did was as an individual. It was not as a representative of the Boston Bruins”.

Tim Thomas is wrong.

He wasn’t invited to the White House as an individual. And he wasn’t being asked to attend a political fund-raiser. He was being invited to share with his teammates the chance to go to the White House and be honored by the President of the United States. It is an honor extended by all U.S. Presidents to members of championship teams in many sports.

To make a political statement by not going was disrespectful to the Office of the President and brought unwanted, negative attention to his teammates.

Tim Thomas was invited as a member of a team. So, he has to understand that by choosing not to go with his teammates, it would not be that Tim Thomas, an individual, chose not to go to the White House, but that Boston Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas didn’t attend with his teammates.

Do you think Tim’s teammates have enjoyed answering questions about his self-proclaimed “individual” decision?

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Back in 2003, I wrote an ESPN Radio commentary about Manhattanville College senior Toni Smith. She sparked debate across the country with her decision to turn away from the U.S. flag as she stood with her basketball team for the singing of the National Anthem.

While many were outraged viewing the display as disrespectful, others argued that Toni Smith was right to follow her conscience and express in this way, her disapproval with the U.S government’s policies.

ESPN Page 2 Columnist Ralph Wiley wrote that the venue for expressing her views didn’t matter and described Smith’s protest as “her quiet, private expression to herself”.

I disagreed.

In my view, it was not “a quiet, private expression”. She didn’t stay in the locker room until after the Anthem was sung. She made her views quite public.

That’s O.K.

But, when Toni Smith choose to turn her back on the symbol of our country, she was not doing so as an individual, but along the sidelines with her teammates. She was in uniform, representing her team and her school.

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On another topic…I hope you caught the marvelous story in the San Francisco Chronicle last Friday.

There are a plenty of grown-ups who could learn a lot from this 7-year-old.

Here is what happened.

7-year-old Owen Shure of Los Angeles was watching the NFC Championship with his Dad. They are both San Francisco 49er fans and were watching as 49ers return man Kyle Williams made two critical errors – a muffed punt in the 4th quarter that led to the NY Giants go-ahead touchdown, and then an even more damaging error – a fumble of a punt return at his own-24 in overtime, that led to the Giants game-winning field goal.

The mistakes by Kyle Williams led to a flurry of activity on social media with many expressing their disgust with Williams. Some went so far as to issue death threats.

Meanwhile, as The Chronicle reported, when Williams’ last fumble all but sealed the loss, Owen Shure responded like any heartbroken 7-year-old: He began crying uncontrollably.

His Dad told The Chronicle: “He was inconsolable. I was trying to get him to stop crying and I said, ‘If you feel like this, imagine how Kyle Williams feels.’ He thought about it for a second. And he processed it in a way that a 7-year-old does. And then he said, ‘Should we write him a note to tell him it’s OK?’ I said, ‘That would be a great thing to do, Owen.'”

So Owen got his pencil and wrote the letter.

The Chronicle reported that Williams’ agent, Ken Sarnoff, said his client read the letter and was touched. He said Williams is sending Owen an authentic jersey, an autographed picture and a letter of his own, thanking the youngster for thinking of him.

So there you have it…knee-jerk cruelty from (some) adults and thoughtful compassion from a kid.

Way to go, Owen!

Chuck Wilson
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Chuck Wilson

Chuck Wilson is an award-winning host, interviewer and commentator. He was an original host on ESPN Radio and was with the network for close to 17-years. He is the Founder of Even Field.
Chuck Wilson
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