"This Is the Only Statement I Will Make On This Matter"
There may be no “I” in “team,” but there are two in “Bruins goalie.”
When members of the Boston Bruins NHL championship team went to the White House this week for the Stanley Cup winners’ annual meet-and-greet with President Obama, goalie Tim Thomas refused to attend. On his Facebook page, Mr. Thomas explained his decision:
“I believe the Federal government has grown out of control, threatening the Rights, Liberties, and Property of the People…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.”
What caught my eye (other than his odd grammatical choices) was the last sentence of his statement. But Thomas wasn’t alone in taking that “one and only statement” stance. Bruins President Cam Neely released his own statement:
"As an organization we were honored by President Obama’s invitation to the White House. It was a great day and a perfect way to cap our team’s achievement from last season. It was a day that none of us will soon forget. We are disappointed that Tim chose not to join us, and his views certainly do not reflect those of the Jacobs family or the Bruins organization. This will be the last public comment from the Bruins organization on this subject."
Mr. Thomas has received mixed reviews for his decision, some seeing his move as selfish and others seeing it as principled. I side with those who labeled his a selfish act, since it hijacked the headlines for his own beliefs instead of allowing the spotlight to shine solely on his team’s achievement.
But the two statements got me wondering: Is it a good idea for media spokespersons to release a statement that says, “This is the only comment I will be making?”
Generally speaking, I’d say no. Anthony Weiner and Herman Cain also released similar statements – but the questions kept coming anyway, and both men were forced to abandon their pledges not to discuss their sex scandals any further.
That happened in this case, as well. Despite his Monday pledge not to talk about this issue any further, Cam Neely talked about it again on Tuesday. His pledge lasted less than 24 hours.
There’s good reason for a goalie to put up a defensive guard on the ice, but there’s little reason for media spokespersons to do so in a public statement. Doing so can make them look obstructionist, controlling, or both – and they could accomplish the same result without taking that risk.
Both Mr. Thomas and Mr. Neely should have left that sentence out. When reporters inevitably asked them about the incident, they could have simply said:
“You know, I’ve said everything I’m going to about this matter. It’s time to put the focus back on our play in the ice, and I’m not going to allow this to create any distractions.”
Note: I bolded the last line of each statement for emphasis. They were not bolded in the original statements.
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