The Brewers are in a playoff race, in a major team-wide slump, and now, their best player goes on paternity leave. What has the public reaction been? Surprisingly understanding. This is progress.
Over the past few years, Ryan Braun went from beloved National League MVP to national pariah for using, getting caught using, lying about using, getting away with using, and again getting caught using Performance Enhancing Drugs. Throughout, however, Braun has continued to be an excellent player.
This year, he’s been the best player on the Milwaukee Brewers, who are desperately clinging to a potential playoff spot as they enter the last month of the regular season. All year long, the Brewers have exceeded expectations, but are now mired in an epic nine game losing streak and are behind the St. Louis Cardinals for the division lead but still tenuously hold onto a wild-card playoff position.
Despite this desperate situation, Braun did not play with his teammates for the past two games (he’s back in the lineup tonight), His wife gave birth and he took the customary 2-3 days off to be there* in support. Major League Baseball implemented a 3-day paternity leave policy a few years ago, and over 100 players have made use of this policy. Most famously, Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy, took paternity leave at the start of this season, was criticized by a handful of influential (and boorish) media members, and brought paternity leave into the national spotlight. The public rallied behind Murphy, demonstrating the growing recognition of the importance of fatherhood (and even earned Murphy a speaking slot at the White House!).
Murphy’s case was unusual, however. Most of the time, few notice or care if a player takes leave for a few days to be at the birth of his child. However, most paternity leaves occur during the course of a long season in which a game or two without a player is unlikely to make a big difference. I do not recall a player taking leave during such a critical time of the season as the Brewers now face. Braun’s is an interesting test case for whether we are beginning to value fatherhood perhaps even over winning or short-term performance. So, I did a lot of Googling and searching to see what the public reaction was.
It was pretty much a collective, “Ok, no problem. He should be at the birth of his kid“. The team supports him. The media has largely just reported the story without comment, and even commenters on snarky sports blogs have not been critical of Braun (they are making fertility-related PED jokes about him, however). Woo hoo!
Even moreso than the Daniel Murphy kerfuffle, the lack of a big response to Braun’s paternity leave is a sure sign of progress! Paternity leave and other supports for working fathers are so important, and it is great that they are slowly becoming more accepted by the mainstream (see here for my prior writing on paternity leave).
Have a great weekend, everyone!
What do you think about Braun’s paternity leave? of the public reaction? do you have a paternity leave story to share? Let’s discuss in the comments section.
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* (a little “inside baseball” here) The MLB paternity leave policy allows a player to leave for 3 days, and for the team to call up a temporary replacement from the minors so that they do not have to play short-handed. Because of the expanded rosters teams can construct during September, there was no need for Braun to formally invoke the policy- his replacement is already part of the expanded rosters. For all intents and purposes, however, Braun is on paternity leave.