Why Mike Florio Is Dead Wrong About Childbirth and the NFL

Alessandro MiglioFeatured ColumnistNovember 7, 2012

News broke this week that Chicago Bears cornerback Charles Tillman might miss this Sunday's marquee matchup against the Houston Texans.

There is no injury, though. On the contrary, his absence was tied to the possibility that his wife might go into labor. Tillman has since announced that he will play, with his wife delivering the child on Monday, but that's not the point.  

Not only is this completely within Tillman's rights, it seems like a perfectly normal thing to expect.

Except if you are Mike Florio.

According to the NBC Sports writer, Tillman should have thought ahead to avoid this situation altogether:

It’s a thorny issue. My position was and is that the players have made a lifestyle choice that entails being available 16 days per year, no matter what. If they choose not to plan their nine-month family expansion activities to coincide with the eight months per year when their work activities don’t entail playing games that count, why should their teams suffer the consequences?

Does Florio even understand how human reproduction works? Pregnancies do not occur on command.

What if Tillman and his wife have been trying to have a child for years, or this was a last-ditch effort at in vitro fertilization? What if it was an accident? What if this is a high-risk pregnancy? We do not live in the utopian world of Gattaca.

This is not even just about Tillman and his potential absence. Why should the wife of Tillman, or any other player, be forced to go through child labor without a significant other?

Childbirth can be the most harrowing experience in a woman's life. Anything can happen. Lives are at stake. Emotions are unpredictable. 

If Florio is insinuating that Tillman should plan a cesarean section to avoid this potential problem, understand that he is prescribing elective surgery. It is their choice.

From a monetary standpoint, Florio might have a point. Owners invest millions of dollars into their players to play 16-plus games a season, and their absence in one game could be pivotal. That team's fans invest their money in tickets and merchandise, and a loss could mean a dip in revenue.

But how cold-hearted is that?

At any rate, players work so much more than 16 times a year. Countless hours—time that might take that player away from baby preparations—of practice, hard work and physical effort are put forth before, during and after the season to get ready for those 16 games. They are not just paid millions of dollars to play in a handful of games per season.

These players have chosen this profession, but it is a profession. They are entitled, by law, to be with their family during childbirth regardless of how much money they make. Childbirth is, perhaps, a once-in-a-lifetime experience for a family.

Even if it is not their first child, what decent human being would expect his employee to come to work while his wife is in labor?

He was immediately rebuked en masse, yet Florio continued his tone-deafness on Twitter:

How would you feel if the QB of your favorite team skipped the Super Bowl to be present for the birth of a child?

— ProFootballTalk (@ProFootballTalk) November 7, 2012

How would you feel if that quarterback chose to play in that Super Bowl during his wife's labor and something went wrong?

Yes, football players have played under extraordinary circumstances before. Earlier this season Torrey Smith turned in an emotional performance on Sunday Night Football less than 24 hours after his brother died. We all know of the incredible performance Brett Favre had the day after his father died.

Childbirth is certainly different, but no less life-changing and important. The extraordinary efforts by these athletes should not be demanded nor expected.


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