It is not new for sports commentators to shame pro athletes for their conduct as fathers. However, last night, former Miami Marlins president David Samson, who is now a commentator for CBS Sports HQ, took athlete-shaming to a whole new level when he criticized Washington Nationals pitcher Daniel Hudson for missing Game 1 of the National League Championship Series to exercise his collectively bargained right to paternity leave and attend to the birth of his child.
On Twitter, Samson wrote that it was “unreal” for Hudson to miss the game. He went on to opine that a Major League Baseball player should be on the field unless there is “a problem with the birth or health of baby or mother.”
Samson, of course, is entitled to his personal opinion. Nevertheless, his views are both myopic and troublesome for at least four separate reasons.
First, Samson’s tweet suggests that a baseball player such as Hudson is replaceable in his role as a father but not in his role as a pitcher. That view is probably incorrect. Indeed, if the Los Angeles Dodgers were able to survive as an organization during Game 1 of the 1965 World Series while Hall of Fame starting pitcher Sandy Koufax observed Yom Kippur, the Washington Nationals could certainly survive one game of the NLCS without Hudson.
Second, Samson’s statements, albeit outside the context of race, have “the whiff of a plantation” in that Samson, as a former Major League Baseball executive, seems to view players as highly paid commodities rather than as human beings. Samson’s tweet did not seem to recognize—outside the scope of medical harm—that there was a need for any balancing test between family obligations and work obligations. The analysis was entirely one-dimensional, as is sometimes the case with someone who spends their entire career in an executive position.
Third, Samson, as a graduate of Cardozo Law School, should have understood that Major League Baseball players have collectively bargained for the right to take paternity leave. Indeed, Samson was working as a Marlins executive at the time when Major League Baseball and its players’ union first agreed to the terms of paternity leave. If Samson were really so opposed to the concept, he could have encouraged the Marlins and other teams not to agree to the provision. Arguably, he should not be tweeting his objections years later.
Finally—and perhaps most troubling—Samson’s tweet sends the misguided message to young men that their work obligations should always take preeminence over family obligations. In a society where sports commentators are already so quick to publicly shame athletes who are deadbeat dads, one can reasonably doubt whether it is such a good idea to also shame those who seek to be actively involved fathers.
Marc Edelman ([email protected]) is a Professor of Law at Baruch College’s Zicklin School of Business and the founder of Edelman Law, where he consults extensively on sports and gaming issues. He has authored seminal law review articles on collegiate sports and athletes rights, including “Are Commissioner Suspensions Any Different from Illegal Group Boycotts” and “Analyzing NFL Players’ Freedom to Protest.”