Did Tim Thomas put himself before his team when he decided not to attend Monday’s Stanley Cup ceremony at the White House? (Harry How/Getty Images) (Harry How/Getty Images)

The Boston Bruins paid a visit to the White House on Monday to celebrate the team’s memorable run to the 2011 Stanley Cup title. Goalie Tim Thomas declined the invitation, however, calling into question his choice to place his own political leanings over a team event. As Matt Brooks reported on the Early Lead:

But the man who perhaps played the biggest role in them winning their first title in 39 years decided to pass on the invite from President Barack Obama.

Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas was not on hand for Monday’s ceremony, a decision he made months ago due to his political and ideological differences with the current administration.

“He chose not to come,” Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli said. ”The reasons behind it I think he’ll make the media aware through his Facebook.”

Thomas, one of only two Americans on Boston’s roster, registered a .967 save percentage in seven games against Vancouver, stopping 238 of the 246 shots he faced. The effort earned him the Conn Smythe Trophy, awarded to the most valuable player in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

“I can require someone to attend a team event. If they don’t, I can suspend him.” Chiarelli told the Boston Globe. “I’m not suspending Tim. Whatever his position is, it isn’t reflective of the Boston Bruins nor my own. But I’m not suspending him.”

Thomas explained his absence in a statement on his Facebook page in which he cited his belief that ‘The Federal government has grown out of control.’ As the Early Lead’s Cindy Boren reported:

Thomas has drawn criticism — and praise — for the decision, which he posted at 6 p.m. Monday and says will be his final comment on the matter.

“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 oppostition 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”

Kevin Paul Dupont of the Boston Globe thinks Thomas, a Flint, Mich., native, missed an opportunity to make his views more public — beyond the goalie mask bearing the phrase “Don’t Tread on Me,” a slogan adopted by the Tea Party. He “had a chance to tell the leader of the free world what he thinks it means to be an American today. Not just any American, mind you, but an Olympian, a multimillionaire, a hero in the city where he works, and a member of a championship team that has been a source of joy (and sorrow, too) to millions of Bostonians for nearly a century.

“Instead, Thomas took his pads and blocker to another end of town and issued his statement. He could have talked to the president. Instead, he mailed one in from the pizza stand. I think he missed his chance. I think he missed the point of the day. I think he mistreated his teammates.”

Thomas’s snub is only the most recent of many athlete-staged political protests. From Muhammad Ali’s refusal to be enlisted in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War to basketball and baseball players refusing to stand for the National Anthem, athletes have used the sports spotlight to make (or fail to make) political statements before. As the Early Lead’s Matt Brooks wrote:

Thomas is hardly the first athlete to use the sports platform to make a political statement.

Here are a few other memorable events involving U.S. athletes from the ‘Black Power Salute’ at the 1968 Olympics to ‘Los Suns.’

1967 - Muhammad Ali refuses enlistment in the United States Army after being drafted for the Vietnam War. Protesting: The Vietnam War.

1968 - American track and field stars Tommie Smith and John Carlos perform the ‘Black Power salute’ during the “Star-Spangled Banner” following their medal-winning sprints at the Mexico City Olympics. Protesting: The need for equality and black rights in the U.S.

1980 - The United States and 62 other countries boycott the 1980 Moscow Olympics. Protesting: the Soviet Union’s Christmas Day invasion of Afghanistan.

1996 - Denver Nuggets guard Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf refuses to stand for the National Anthem before NBA games. Protesting: U.S. foreign policy and ‘tyranny’ which conflicted with his new Islamic beliefs. (Abdul-Rauf was suspended by the NBA for one game for his action.)

2004 - Blue Jays outfielder Carlos Delgado refuses to stand for “God Bless America” during 7th inning stretch. Protesting: The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

2010 - The Phoenix Suns sport “Los Suns” jerseys on Cinco De Mayo for a playoff game against the San Antonio Spurs. Protesting: Arizona’s new immigration law targetting illigal immigrants.

More from Washington Post Sports:

Bruins visit the White House minus MVP goalie Tim Thomas

Tim Thomas says he skipped White House trip because ‘government has grown out of control’

Memorable political statements made by athletes over the years