*Even the Grinch who stole Christmas might take issue with me on this one, but here goes: pro sport players shouldn’t have their children sit with them during press conferences.
There. I said it.
And yes, I love kids, and no, I don’t have any, but yes I can still know what it’s like to love them, be proud of them and become absolutely enamored when they do things cute and amusing. Plus, I used to be a kid (yes, I can remember back that far). I recall the sheer joy derived from being the center of positive attention from adults.
But work is different. Most people wouldn’t bring small kids to the office, allow them to sit in on a staff meeting and speak out whenever they wanted. A child in mom or dad’s lap in the cockpit while the parent pilots an airliner would be out of the question; joining dad on the seat of the bulldozer while he clears a plot of land is not acceptable. This is work, and, with few exceptions, work is no place for kids.
The same goes for pro sports press conferences. I know what you’re thinking, but I’m not reaching here. While the most obvious work happens on the court, field or in the ring, players and coaches are contractually obligated to give pre and post event interviews; it’s part of the job. A press conference dais is no place for a child.
I don’t watch enough sports press conferences to know how often players and coaches have their children sit with them as they field questions about the game just played. But over the years I’ve noticed that they do it.
Of course, the player who immediately comes to mind is Golden State Warrior point guard Stephen Curry, who brought his darling two year-old daughter Riley to a couple of recent press conferences.
The first one was great. Oblivious to the business at hand—reporters’ interest in querying dad on details of a Warriors’ win—Riley was simply adorable, advising Curry not too talk too loud, etc. Much of the press and most of America seemed to love it, with video footage of the conference going viral.
Days later, Curry appeared at another post-game conference, during which Riley joined him. The second appearance was reminiscent of the kid who does something before a room full of adults, gets a chuckle and then repeats the act again…and again, mining for the same response.
Thing is, the child in search of the laugh wasn’t the child–Riley’s a kid, and kids will be kids; they’ll say things that are sweet and funny and they’re just having fun, especially when it meets the approval of dad and adults.
No, the person milking the situation would be Curry himself, bringing Riley to yet another press gathering in hopes of more yuks and ahhhhhhs.
Whereas Riley’s first appearance had all the delight of innocent spontaneity, the second had an exploitive, Honey Boo-Boo-sque vibe to it. Reaching for sentimentality the second time around robbed that first occasion of its unsullied charm. It’s not the kid’s job, but the intuition of the parent to know when enough is enough.
Bringing kids to press conferences is unfair to the press, whose job it is to ask questions of an athlete or coach…who, with his or her child on hand, is naturally distracted.
It’s also unfair to the child, who either abhors the situation or becomes dependent on it for attention. For viewers, it can be uncomfortable to watch. In their purity, children can be loose cannons. To paraphrase the title of an old Cosby TV program, kids can say the darnedest things–including blurting out information not for public consumption.
Accompanying an article on an internet sports site regarding kids and sports press conferences were readers’ comments that black players bringing their kids to meet the press is a good thing, for the image counters the notion that some black athletes are deemed lousy, inattentive parents.
To this I say: if you are a good dad, you are a good dad, period. You don’t owe an exhibition of this to anyone but your family. Furthermore, bringing your kid to press conferences doesn’t prove anything. Moreover: black players shouldn’t have to prove themselves fit parents any more than other athletes.
Still, where’s the harm, you ask. It’s not like the kids are participating in the game itself. True. However, press conferences are an extension of the gig. An athlete’s wife, husband, girlfriend, boyfriend or parents aren’t sitting there; neither should the children. It’s work. Leave the kids out of it.
Something tells me my urgent outlooks on the subject won’t stop athletes from arriving at press conferences, children in tow. Okay. But if they do bring their kid, that kid better be on their A game. Riley is a hard act to follow.
Steven Ivory, veteran journalist, essayist and author, writes about popular culture for magazines, newspapers, radio, TV and the Internet. Respond to him via [email protected]