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Boomer & Pals’ Call on Paternity Leave = Foul Play

April 4, 2014

by Ellen Bravo

When the ump makes a bad call in baseball, the team can now cry foul, call for an expanded instant replay – and overturn a wrong call.

Daniel MurphyWe need the same rules for sportscasters. Case in point:  Boomer Esiason, Craig Carton and Mike Francesa on WFAN blasting Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy for taking a two-game paternity leave after the birth of his first child.

Boomer wanted Murphy to force his wife to schedule a C-section before the season started – why let the baby call the shots? And after all, the former quarterback fumed, “[men] don’t have the plumbing to take care of what needs to be taken care of.”

His sidekick on the morning talk show, Craig Carton, told Murphy, “assuming the birth went well, 24 hours and then you get your ass back to your team and you play baseball.” Their afternoon host threw the ball even farther afield, insisting paternity leave is a “scam” and a “gimmick.”

New dad Murphy took it all in stride. “”I can only speak for my experience,” he said. “[My wife] was completely finished. She was done. She had had surgery, and she was wiped. So having me there, I think, helped a lot, and vice versa.”

A similar brew-ha-ha came up in 2012 when Bears cornerback Charles Tillman was prepared to miss a big football game to be at the birth of his fourth child. Boomer and pals should have listened to sports leaders on that call – reminding fans that a good coach has to prepare for a key player’s absence.

“It’s family first,” Bears Coach Lovie Smith said to the Chicago Sun Times. “If there is something you feel like you need to do for your family always do that. How we look at it is like an injury. If a player can’t go, it’s next guy up. We’ll keep going.”

Rodney Harrison, now one of the hosts on Football Night in America, said he took a similar position on family when he played for the New England Patriots. Asked what his coach, Bill Belichick had to say, Harrison replied, “Belichick didn’t say anything. Had he said anything, I would’ve said I don’t care how important the game is. Even if it’s the Super Bowl, I’m going to be there when my baby is born. It was understood. I was going to be there for my kids.”

Co-host Tony Dungy, former coach for the Indianapolis Colts, agreed. “My policy was, ‘always be with your wife. Your wife is much more important than any football game.'”

I don’t doubt that Boomer Esiason knows a lot about playing football. He may even know a lot about baseball. But the comments on paternity leave by him and his co-hosts amounted to more than a strike-out – they were an error.

Murphy deserves an apology.

UPDATE:  After taking considerable heat, Boomer Esiason has issued an apology for “insensitive comments” seeming to tell women what to do with their bodies and for putting Daniel Murphy and his wife in the spotlight. He thanked the March of Dimes “who graciously reached out and re-educated me that if a pregnancy is healthy, it is medically beneficial to let the labor begin on its own rather than to schedule a C-section for convenience.” We applaud him for taking this step and hope his co-host and afternoon host will do the same – and we look forward to a continuing conversation on the need for affordable leave for parents of newborns and other caregivers.

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