Troy Williamson missed a game last week to take care of his grandmother’s funeral, not just a distant relative but someone who helped raise him. The Vikings were fine with his leaving, but docked his pay for that week ($25,000, according to ESPN this morning).
Another piece of the puzzle that is professional sports. “They make too much money.” “They should be perfect role models.” “They miss births, deaths, weddings.” When they sign their contracts, do they sign away normal personhood? In exchange for fabulous wealth and celebrity, do they give up any rights to maintain connection with the real world? Is approval of this system a form of revenge, exacted in bitter jealousy that they get to do what we have only dreamed of?
Do we allow regular people paid leave to attend a funeral in the real world? I’ve had many jobs that would not. You’d be lucky if they’d even let you off WITHOUT pay. But mine were all peon jobs, and heaven knows poor people don’t care about their families. If they did they would make more money. Enter the single moms living in poverty who are forced to prove their dedication to parenthood by leaving their kids to be raised in daycare while they work at whatever deadend minimum wage job the state helps them find.
ESPN commentator Mike Golic explained the rational argument behind the Vikings decision, that it is a “business principle,” I believe is the term he used. It is perfectly reasonable that a line must be drawn somewhere. If they were to pay a player to miss a game, would it be only for a death in the family? What about a birth? What about a close family member’s surgery? Does it make a difference if you are a starting player or third-string? In lieu of making the hard decisions and opening up the possibility of injustice, just dock anyone’s pay who feels they must put their family before their job/ the financial health of the company that owns them.
Still, $25,000 — that is nothing to a professional sports club when compared with the message it could send: paid leave = “You matter to us, not just as a producer for our team but as a human;” withheld = “You’re on your own. Our family is the Bottom Line.”
And you know, as Americans, patriotic until our ears bleed, loyal until our Hummer bumper is covered in American flag stickers, don’t we say this to each other every day? “Hey, I know you are my compatriot, but if you’re not profitable, get the hell out of the way.” If we’re not going to change the crappy, money-grubbing way we treat the poorest, least famous people among us, then I guess it’s only right we are heartless to those who can at least buy themselves some kind of consolation.