Should Pro Athletes Be Allowed To Skip Games Because Of The Birth Of A Child?
Chicago Bears cornerback Charles Tillman was thinking about skipping Sunday night’s game against the Houston Texans earlier this week. He’s not injured, though. He’s also not sick. And, he’s not holding himself out to try and get the Bears to renegotiate his contract. So, then why was he thinking about possibly sitting out the Bears big game against the AFC’s best team? Well, because his wife is getting ready to give birth to a baby any day now and he wants to be by her side when she does it.
“The wife is due any day,” he told a radio station on Wednesday, “so hopefully this baby can stay in until after the game on Sunday. I hope she stays in—I’m having another girl. Monday, for sure, but if she comes Sunday, I think I’m going to have to be at the hospital Sunday. So, I hope she stays in until after Sunday.”
His decision sounded reasonable enough. And, he’s definitely not the first pro athlete to make the decision to skip a game in order to attend the birth of his child. In fact, earlier this season, Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger revealed that his wife is set to give birth sometime in November and that he’s determined to do whatever it takes to be there when she does, even if that means missing a game. But, almost immediately, Tillman caught flack for announcing his decision. His biggest critic was Pro Football Talk‘s Mike Florio, who came out and said that he feels Tillman should be required to play in the Bears/Texans game, even if his wife goes into labor.
“I think you gotta show up and do your job,” he said, while also noting that he’s never been in Tillman’s position. “Guys who are overseas don’t get to fly home if they’ve got a spouse going into labor, and they get paid a heck of a lot less money.”
While Florio does have a point when he mentions men in the military not always being able to witness the births of their children, we have to disagree with his premise. Tillman is a main cog in the Bears defense, and we’re sure the Bears would love to have him at the game on Sunday night. But, if Tillman chooses not the show up because of the birth of his child, he shouldn’t be criticized for doing it. After all, would your employer tell you that you had to work instead of attending your child’s birth? And, even if he or she did, would you listen (for the record, the Bears have come out and said that they’re fine with Tillman missing the game)? A baby will have more birthdays and more Christmases, so an employer asking an employee to skip one of those things is understandable. But, a baby only has one birth. And, if a father wants to be there for it—regardless of his occupation, he should be allowed to be there.
Shortly after the controversy flared up, Tillman came out and revealed that his wife is expected to give birth on Monday now. That means he probably won’t have to miss the game after all and the controversy surrounding his attendance is all but over. But, moving forward, we shouldn’t criticize athletes for wanting to be a part of the birth of their children. Missing one game won’t be the end of the world. So, cut these guys a break and let them be with their families.