Baseball or Baby? Criticism of Daniel Murphy Highlights America's Parental Leave Problem

Two radio hosts slammed the Mets second baseman for missing a couple of games after the birth of his first child.
Apr 3, 2014·
Culture and education editor Liz Dwyer has written about race, parenting, and social justice for several national publications. She was previously education editor at Good.

Listen up, guys: Some of your male peers still don’t get why you need to take paternity leave after you have a baby. And if you’re a pro athlete? Fuhgeddaboutit.

WFAN sports radio hosts Boomer Esiason and Craig Carton didn’t mince words on their show this week when expressing their displeasure over New York Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy's decision to take a measly two days of paternity leave after the birth of his baby.

Or rather, Murphy could be there for the child's birth, but “assuming the birth went well, assuming your wife is fine, assuming the baby is fine…you get your ass back to your team and you play ball,” said Carton. Besides, “there’s nothing you can do anyway. You’re not breast-feeding the kid,” he added.

Apparently, that's all Carton thinks a father can do after his child is born.

Esiason, a former NFL quarterback, took things to the next level by saying he would’ve told his wife to have a “C-section before the season starts,” so no games were missed. Never mind that C-sections are major surgery and can cause all sorts of medical complications.

Murphy, whose wife did have a C-section, kept his response to Carton, Esiason, and other armchair critics classy. "I can only speak from my experience—a father seeing his wife—she was completely finished," said Murphy. "I mean, she was done. She had surgery, and she was wiped. Having me there helped a lot, and vice versa, to take some of the load off.... It felt, for us, like the right decision to make."

Two days isn't much time to get into the swing of parenting or bond as a family. And Carton and Esiason's statement in the video above that Murphy could take a federally allowed two-week paternity leave is incorrect. According to the collective bargaining agreement Major League Baseball players have with team owners, players only get to take three days off after the birth of a child.

That kind of policy, and Carton and Esiason's attitude, is rooted in our Dark Ages approach to parental leave as a whole. The United States is the only high-income nation, according to the International Labor Organization, to not have paid maternity leave. What other nations don't have paid leave? Try Lesotho, Swaziland, and Papua New Guinea. Not to mention that the outdated, sexist message to men is clear: You'd better hire somebody to take care of your family, and your kids should be happy enjoying your paycheck instead of your presence.

Maybe Murphy should take a cue from Maximus, Russell Crowe's character in Gladiator. During the Mets' next game, he should grab a mic, stand in the middle of the baseball field, and yell, "Are you not entertained?"