Paternity Leave: Take It or Leave It on the Field?
I have to admit. I had never heard of Daniel Murphy before last week. Today I know a lot about the New York Mets first baseman who set off a firestorm of controversy because he availed himself of two-thirds of his three game days of paternity leave, missing opening day and the following game of the 2014 baseball season in order to be with his wife for the birth of their first child. Sports talk radio hosts are apoplectic. But Boomer Esiason really takes the cake on this issue.
I heard the reports of Boomer’s comments. This is what he said: “Quite frankly, I would have said C-section before the season starts. I need to be at Opening Day. I’m sorry. This is what makes our money. This is how we’re going to live our life. This is going to give my child every opportunity to be a success in life. I’ll be able to afford any college I want to send my kid to because I’m a baseball player.” Now, all day I gave Boomer the benefit of the doubt. His comments surely were made tongue in cheek. Then I saw his comments, on television. And I nearly keeled over. Because he was dead serious.
Now, let me tell you a few things. I couldn’t care less about debating whether or not professional athletes should suck it up and play through any family event. Birth, wedding, funeral, so be it. I mean, really, as Americans, Boomer surely thinks, we understand professional sports is the work of Gods. People live and die by one athlete’s performance in one game. Right? But let’s put that aside.
The real issue here is that Major League Baseball players have a union. That union has negotiated a contract. They care enough as a membership to negotiate for, and win, paid paternity leave in that contract. So they are entitled to take three games off PAID (yes, Boomer, Murphy will not forgo the $35,000+ he makes per game – the college fund will not suffer) for the birth of a child. And yet it stirs a national debate when a player actually exercises his duly negotiated right to use it. Surely we would never expect a player to forgo any financial rewards, performance bonuses, health benefits or travel perks negotiated in his contract. But to miss a game… for a baby… or a wife…? You better be prepared for a maelstrom.
This is the problem for too many men in too many professions. Those who are fortunate enough to have access to paternity leave, paid or not, are too often shamed or ashamed to take it. And this is not just a men’s problem. Women will never have equal footing in the workplace until men have equal footing on the home front. Daniel Murphy is no hero. He’s just a guy who is lucky enough to be a professional baseball player, and a dad, and a millennial who is too young to count the increasingly irrelevant Boomer Esiason among his role models.
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