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Four Lessons for Those Facing Adversity

After 15 years of adamantly denying that he bet on baseball, Major League Baseball’s all-time hits leader finally admitted guilt in 2004. Pete Rose stated that he bet on baseball “every night” while managing the Cincinnati Reds; betting only on his own club to win. The problem now, over a decade later, is the documented evidence that has surfaced indicating that Rose in fact bet during his days as a player too. Already banned from baseball for life, Rose now takes many steps back after what seemed to be a step forward toward reinstatement via growing fan support.

On the other side of the sports world, golf’s longtime fan favorite, Phil Mickelson (“Lefty”), is managing his own case of reputational damage and potential legal trouble. Mickelson is said to have ties to a $3 million money laundering scheme in connection with an illegal gambling operation. Mickelson, one of PGA’s wealthiest players, is not yet under federal investigation, but he does have some work to do to repair what was one of the cleanest and most honorable reputations in golf. While we don’t know what the future holds in terms an investigative process, we do know that these types of allegations impact marketplace valuation.

Fallston Group believes “if you don’t tell your story, someone else will. And when someone else tells your story, it won’t be the story you want told.” Rose has been telling a story for almost 25 years, apparently not the truthful one. He has seemingly lied to the public and his fans. Regardless of whether Rose ultimately ends up in the Baseball Hall of Fame, Rose’s reputation is irreparably damaged.  He will be remembered as much for his gambling and lies as his hustle and hits.

Warren Buffet once said, “it takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.”  In Phil Mickelson’s case, he still has time to get the truthful facts straight and tell his story before it tarnishes his spotless reputation.  Although the damage has begun, he can and should follow these four steps to save the brand and image he has worked for years to build, as long as his legal team is onboard:

1) Tell your story: It may seem easy to go into hiding until the storm passes, but it’s never smart. Confront your situation head-on and demonstrate optimism, control and confidence.

2) Don’t release false information: This is what got Pete Rose in trouble. He lied and lied until he couldn’t lie anymore. Then he lied even more, even though the reputational vice couldn’t get any tighter. Releasing information that is untrue will create even more vulnerability. Lying is the number one reputation killer. America is a fairly forgiving society as long as they feel the violator is openly honest and remorseful.

3) Stick to your values: Maintain a high level of ethical standards. Use your values as a platform to guide you through crisis. In Mickelson’s case, his values are why he is beloved by golf fans everywhere; in the end, this is what will navigate him through this storm.

4) Stay calm: Despite pressure, keep calm and strategically handle the situation at hand. Panic and worry make you appear defensive, and being defensive translates to a decrease in trust.

For more information regarding crisis and reputation management, contact Fallston Group by phone at 410.420.2001 or by email at info@fallstongroup.com

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