Sports Law Blog
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Monday, February 19, 2007
Tom Brady to Father Child Out-Of-Wedlock: What Does It Mean?
Before I discuss today's news about New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, I thought it would be helpful to first examine legal and sociological trends relating to the subject du jour: out-of-wedlock children.
Since the 1970s, out-of-wedlock births in the United States have soared, as about 37% of all American children are now born without married parents, in contrast to less than 10% in the 1960s and less 5% in the 1950s. There are many possible explanations for this increase, such as change in attitudes toward sexual behavior, less social pressure to get married, fewer legal constraints to divorce, and other theories carefully studied in George A. Akerlof & Janet L. Yellen's "An Analysis of Out-Of-Wedlock Births in the United States" (Brookings Institution) and more ideologically, though nonetheless thoughtfully studied in Patrick F. Fagan's "Where is the Love?" (National Review).
Thankfully, every state has passed laws to ensure that these children enjoy the same legal protections as other children. For instance, Chapter 209c of the Massachusetts General Laws commands that "Children born to parents who are not married to each other shall be entitled to the same rights and protections of the law as all other children." Moreover, the social stigma attached to a child born out-of-wedlock has dissipated considerably in modern times.
Celebrities and entertainers--perhaps only because we notice their lives--seem to display a particular penchant for having children out-of-wedlock. We all followed the birth of Suri Cruise to her (at the time) unwed parents, Katie Holmes and Tom Cruise. Less famously, but still notably, award-winning actress Patricia Arquette of the show Medium has two children out-of-wedlock, as does actor/musician/freerider Kevin Federline. And of course, the nation is closely following the legal battles over which of three men could be the father to the late Anna Nicole Smith's baby girl, Danielynn.
Professional athletes and their out-of-wedlock children have also received public notice. Indeed, reports persist that many NBA players have fathered children out-of-wedlock. Consider, for instance, former NBA player Shawn Kemp, who is said to have fathered at least seven kids out-of-wedlock. Or consider Larry Bird, who was otherwise adored by Bostonians but received some critique for not having a relationship with a daughter he fathered out-of-wedlock. Similar stories have been said of MLB, NFL, and NHL players, some of whom have been sued for failing to pay child support.
So it probably shouldn't come as a surprise to learn that another pro athlete, this time Tom Brady, is going to father a child out-of-wedlock. The mother of his child is actress Bridget Moynahan, whom Brady broke up with two months ago, right before Christmas. Brady is now said to be dating supermodel Gisele Bundchen. He will certainly have the financial wherewithal to pay child-support, and unless there is question as to whether he is the father (and there is no indication of that), then this story will not attract legal attention.
But still, one might say that there is a glaring--if entirely predictable--disconnect between how the New England Patriots, and in particular their "brilliant" head coach Bill Belichick and "All-American" quarterback Tom Brady, are revered for their on-field exploits and how their personal lives do not seem nearly as laudable. We've talked about Belichick's alleged extra-marital affair with a New York Giants secretary, and now we see Brady set to father a child with a woman he recently dumped. That only brings to mind Charles Barkley's famous line, "I am not a role model." And it's a powerful reminder that no matter how graceful and inspiring they appear on-the-field, pro sports personalities are just regular folks, with the same vices, flaws, and other defects that all people have, expect, possibly, greater capacity and temptation to act on them.