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It’s not a rare thing to see athletes father-up and put family ahead of their careers. But some athletes are also having very private battles in very public arenas concerning their kids. This is the intersection of dad and athlete: where work-life balance is always in the spotlight.

Recently, there have been a lot of interesting sports stories including the likes of golfer Hunter Mahan, the NBA’s Dwayne Wade, the MLB’s Joe Mauer and the NFL’s Adrian Peterson – and, of course many more than we could cover.

Who’s taking official paternity leave? Who’s banned from saying anything about their ex on Twitter? Who left a tournament to be with their wife during labor?

adrian petersonMost recently, NFL runningback Adrian Peterson’s son showed up to the Minnesota Vikings’ training camp with a kiss for his dad. Let the cuteness wash over you. There’s something about a little kid in his dad’s sports equipment that makes even the toughest dudes smile. Peterson wasn’t the only NFL dad with his kin at practice – check out Denver Broncos punter Britton Colquitt’s son in a teammate’s shoes, and Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew walking off the field with his son. And these dads are still not the only ones at NFL training camps with their kids.

Another Minnesota dad who’s all smiles over his kids – Twins’ catcher Joe Mauer, who was literally pulled off the field during a batting practice at Angels Stadium in California after Mauer got a call from his wife on the dugout phone saying she was going into labor a couple of weeks earlier than expected. Mauer hopped on a plane back to the Twin Cities – and made it home 30 minutes before the birth of his own twin girls.

A couple of other new dads in the MLB are availing themselves to the new paternity leave policy afforded to them in a recent collective bargaining agreement: Cleveland Indians outfielder Michael Bourn and Baltimore Orioles pitcher Miguel Gonzalez both took some recent sanctioned time off to enjoy their new additions to their families. (Thanks for the tip, Fathers, Work & Family)

demetrious johnson

From Johnson’s Instagram (click the pic for his account)

Not everyone has an official paternity leave policy behind them. UFC fighter Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson might be up late with his son now, but one week after his wife gave birth to their son on July 14, Johnson was scheduled for a July 27th match to defend his UFC flyweight title. Something that he might be paying for now with extra diaper duty: though Johnson lived in the area, he opted to stay at the UFC host hotel the week after his son was born, leading up to his title match (so he could get proper rest?). As a result, Johnson only missed one day of work. 

Golfer Hunter Mahan may be richer in spirit for witnessing his daughter’s birth in person, but certainly not richer in the pocketbook; Mahan left the Canadian Open on the night of July 27 and flew home to Texas. Mahan withdrew from the tournament after the second round – while ahead two strokes. Had he continued, he was projected to win and bring home the $1 million prize.

“I can’t thank Kandi enough for going into labor early,” said the $1 million-richer Brandt Snedeker, winner of the Canadian Open. “I don’t know if I’d be sitting here if she hadn’t. But that is a way more important thing than a golf tournament. I missed a golf tournament when my first was born, and it was the best decision I ever made. I’m sure Hunter would say the same thing.”

Unfortunately, not all athletes are still in the new dad bliss. NBA star and Miami Heat guard Dwayne Wade, who had won custody of his two sons in 2011 (and made some awesome commercials for Dove Men+Care with them) found himself back in court last week trying to end the long court battle with ex, Siohvaughn Funches. She’ll be receiving $5 million, in addition to the $25,000 monthly (says Wade’s lawyer) that Wade had been paying to Funches for her four cars, mortgage, insurance, taxes and legal fees.

dwayne wade foul

No one knows what demons Wade and Funches have between them – as evidenced by the $5 million payout despite the alleged monthly payments, Funches’ tossed-out lawsuit against Wade for other monies resulting from a 2008 endorsement, and 2012 ( mostly dismissed) misdemeanor charges of attempted child abduction, unlawful visitation interference and obstruction of a peace officer after an incident related to her visitation with the couple’s sons. To call Wade and Funches’ relationship complicated is an understatement.

Another NBA star, Los Angeles Lakers point guard Steve Nash, found himself in court with a possible order to pay his ex-wife, Alejandra Amarilla Nash, money to cover more than just their three kids’ basic needs. The two are also ordered to refrain from attacking each other on Twitter, where they’d been trading barbs since their 2011 divorce.


Some of the extraordinary stories around the fields, locker rooms and clubhouses show fans that the work-life balance of athletes is in many ways more public than your average father, but at its core, still all about the love between a dad and his children. At the intersection of dad and athlete, “for the love of the game” only yields to one thing: the love of family.