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How Mediation Could Help Dispute Between MLB and Rose

Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred will not be ending the a permanent ban (26 years and counting) from baseball on Pete Rose, the all-time hits leader, a 17-time All Star and 3-time World Champion. How is that good for baseball?

Manfred did meet with Rose in September of last year and left still feeling concerned that Rose:

A. Didn’t confess to betting on games while he played and managed

B. He is still betting on the game

Rose has challenges. He may not be a likable, trustworthy nor admirable figure. His on-field success cannot be denied yet the sport – and the Hall of Fame – demands more of its’ people.

“Gambling on one’s own team is one of about 2-3 cardinal sins in sports because it threatens the fundamental integrity of the game itself,” says Joshua Gordon, an attorney, mediator and founder the Sports Conflict Institute in Eugene, Oregon.

“While a player, Rose seemed to stand for all that you want for the game. However, his actions while managing and coaching are something altogether different,” says Gordon.

One clear mistake that parties seem to be missing is engaging in mediation. Whether that would effectively manage or resolve the dispute to the satisfaction of MLB, Rose and the fans is unknown yet is not pursuing it negligence?

“Mediation certainly provides an opportunity for a more thorough and comprehensive conversation to take place” says Gordon.

“It would be interesting to see if, with the help of a neutral, a more complete set of stakeholders and interests could be understood and a collaboratively developed set of criteria established that might be responsive to the various needs of all parties. We all know that we’re less likely to follow demands than an agreement we’ve had a stake in” says Gordon.

Why the parties have not found a way over two-and-a-half decades to resolve this dispute, find some method that works has been puzzling. The public perception has been that MLB is rigid and Rose is arrogant and unrepentant to his actions.

MLB should have Rose involved in the sport and in its’ Hall of Fame and Rose should be doing all he can do to show remorse and take steps at restoration.

The “why” behind the mutual failure is the mystery.

“The public nature of the conflict adds a huge challenge here” says Gordon.
The story has often been reported and that lack of confidentiality may have precluded progress and resolution.

Yet that’s the tip of the impasse.

“It appears that many of his gambling struggles remain an ongoing challenge and MLB likely has great pause around any current day involvement.
“By the way, please don’t get me started on the hypocrisy of MLB’s sudden change in support of Daily Fantasy Games for MLB and their own financial stake in it” says Gordon.

When people commit an offense and are deceptive about it or lie, it’s natural that we want a confession and MLB seems to be no different. They want Rose to wear that figurative Scarlet Letter of betting and lying. Rose doesn’t want to offer one.

Could mediation remedy this issue?

“Even if it did not remedy it, a forgotten stakeholder appears to be the fans themselves. The fans are likely craving some transparency on the matter and there may be some really important teachable moments that can come with a clearer understanding of Rose’s struggles and what, specifically, happened.

“At the same time, it’s hard to negotiate the past. Apology and accepting responsibility are interests in their own right and need to be negotiated similarly to the more tangible items at stake” says Gordon.

Rose will turn 75 years old in 2016. The question has to be asked “do MLB and Rose want the all-times hit leader to die without this dispute resolved?” What would be the historical narrative of this acrimonious relationship and would regret long live?

“Athletes struggles with transitions out of their playing days is a real and profound one that, I suspect, was part of Rose’s challenges. A better outcome might involve MLB providing support for such addictions and transitional challenges” says Gordon.

Gordon has empathy for a driven, elite, famous player yet impulse-and-behaviorally-flawed man.

“It’s lazy to see people as wholly good or wholly bad and I fear we have dehumanized Rose’s challenges in how the process has gone over the years.

“Too often we laud the tough approach (response). It’s simple and easy to understand. It requires little explanation. It also leads to simplistic outcomes that are unresponsive in solving the problem at hand.

“At the end of the day, there could be great educational value and an opportunity to humanize someone who did bad things while struggling through addiction” says Gordon.



Michael Toebe

Michael is a conflict management specialist, serving businesses and individuals in strategically, effectively gaining deeper understanding of conflicts and disputes and working through them more protectively and wisely. MORE >

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