Who knew turning down an invitation to the White House could cause so much trouble?
Of course, I’m talking about Boston Bruins goalie Tim Thomas, who has followed up his White House no-show with a flurry of posts on his Facebook page — posts that are causing some sports reporters to throw a tantrum.
The reason here: when confronted in the Bruins locker room last week, Thomas refused to answer any questions about any of the pithy comments or quotes that he’s been sharing with the roughly 17,000 people who follow him as fans on the world’s most popular social media platform. “That’s my personal life. That has nothing to do with the Bruins or hockey, and I’m going to remain silent.”
In response, Boston Globe reporter Kevin Paul DuPont wrote on Sunday that Thomas is somehow risking his reputation with Bruins fans, as if winning a pair of Vezina Trophies as the NHL’s best goaltender and leading the Bruins to their first Stanley Cup in 30 years hadn’t already secured his reputation in that town for a generation. The same goes for veteran hockey scribe Ken Campbell, who wrote that Thomas risks becoming a “cartoon character,” if he won’t engage in a lengthy discussion with the media about his politics.
Granted, they’re not the only reporters who have tried to get Thomas to expound on his politics. The Daily Caller has requested an interview with Thomas several times through his Chicago-based agent, Bill Zito. We’ve yet to receive a response.
The truth is, Thomas has little to gain, and plenty to lose, by having an extended discussion with most reporters about his political beliefs. Here are just three reasons why Thomas ought to avoid talking to most media outlets:
- All the research that’s ever been published tells us that the vast majority of reporters are openly hostile to the political beliefs that Thomas has espoused in recent weeks. Why in the world should he expect that reporters with such a pronounced bias would ever cut him an even break?
- As we’ve noted in this space twice in recent weeks (click here and here), reporters, editors and producers have their own agendas, ones that don’t necessarily jibe with those of the people that they cover. So, over and above concerns about political bias, we can be sure that any quote Thomas gives would be positioned in such a way to cause maximum distraction, all the better to drive as many eyeballs as possible to any story that might be written.
- Thomas doesn’t really have to talk at all. Sure, everyone knows he has a perfect right to refuse to talk to reporters about his political beliefs, but now he also has the means to go around the media and talk directly to like-minded people concerning his thoughts on government. That’s exactly what Thomas has been doing in recent weeks via his Facebook page, where he’s done nothing more offensive than offer a selection of his own pithy comments and quotes.
In the end, it’s the last point that might be Thomas’ greatest sin in the eyes of the media. After all, what reporter wants to be reminded that they aren’t the sole gatekeepers of information anymore?
Eric McErlain blogs at Off Wing Opinion, a Forbes “Best of the Web” winner. In 2006 he wrote a “bloggers bill of rights” to help integrate bloggers into the Washington Capitals’ press box. Eric has also written for Deadspin, NBC Sports and the Sporting News, and covers sports television for The TV News. Follow Eric on Twitter.