A minor storm is brewing in the world of the NFL and the media that cover the league. It centers around Chicago Bears cornerback Charles “Peanut” Tillman, arguably the front-runner for the Defensive Player of the Year award at the halfway point of the season, and the possibility that he could miss his team’s game this weekend — a crucial game for the 7-1 Bears against the 7-1 Houston Texans — to be present for the birth of his child.
Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio has been openly critical of Tillman’s insistence that he will skip this weekend’s game if his wife goes into labor. Florio argues that NFL players are paid millions to be on the field only 16 Sunday a year (which we all know is not literally true, but is still fair to say) and that it is the duty of the players to ensure they don’t have any children during the season, potentially forcing them to miss a game.
Florio is way off-base here. First, we’re not talking about Jets cornerback Antonio Cromartie (who once famously couldn’t remember the names of his nine kids with eight different women) or another of the NFL’s reckless fathers. We’re talking about one of the league’s classiest players and a dedicated family man in Tillman. In a league where so few players seem to display family values of any kind, Tillman’s family-before-work attitude should be applauded.
To suggest that the NFL has any right to interject in the personal lives of its employees, especially at the level of telling them when they can and cannot conceive, is absurd. Sure, players would be wise to schedule the births of their children outside the September-February season and avoid this type of controversy, but that’s a perfect-world scenario and not how nature actually works.
Tillman has every right to be with his wife if she goes into labor on Sunday. If he’s an honorable man, however, he will not accept payment for the week. The Bears won’t invite the firestorm of criticism that would follow from withholding his paycheck, but Tillman would be doing the right thing if he declined the money.
Ultimately, it sounds like the birth will take place on Monday and Tillman will be able to play for the Bears on Sunday and then travel to the hospital to be with his wife. He tweeted the following earlier today:
@mikeandmike god, family, football… Baby is coming Monday don’t worry I’ll be there Sunday.
— Charles Tillman (@peanuttillman) November 8, 2012