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Commissioner Got It Half Right, But Mostly Wrong

The Houston Astros are one victory away from winning their first World Series in franchise history, and it’s been a crazy ride. Unfortunately, not everyone has been able to enjoy the “national pastime” this year.

Last week, in Game 3 of the World Series, Houston Astros’ player Yuli Gurriel made a racist gesture toward Dodgers’ player Yu Darvish, who is of Japanese descent. This could have been an incredible opportunity for the Commissioner to make a powerful statement about the culture of baseball and their core principles. Instead, the world watched as Commissioner Rob Manfred announced that Gurriel would be suspended from 5 games next season.

Reasons the Commissioner waited until next season for the suspension include fear of the union repealing the suspension with a grievance, a desire for Gurriel to be monetarily punished (about $330,000), and honoring Darvish’s request to move forward. Regardless of Commissioner Manfred’s reasons, the lack of immediate action sent a message not only to Darvish but also the hundreds of thousands of baseball enthusiasts watching the game.

Yu Darvish warmed up on Saturday before Game 4 of the World Series in Houston.
Yu Darvish warmed up on Saturday before Game 4 of the World Series in Houston. Credit Matt Slocum/Associated Press

In my forthcoming book, Brand Under Fire, I stress the importance of understanding your company’s cultural identity before a crisis occurs. The identity and values that exemplify it will inform your response in a crisis.

The Commissioner only got it half right. He stood firm in suspending Gurriel but he failed in making the punishment timely. The fact is, there is a precedent for suspending players during the World Series. In 2015, Los Angeles Dodgers’ Chase Utley was suspended for breaking Mets’ Ruben Tejada’s leg and suffered the consequences of that action during the World Series, he was suspended from two games.

In the end, the lack of timely action made the entire association look as if it was not acting with integrity. In fact, while claiming to not want to penalize all Astros players during the World Series, what the Commissioner actually conveyed is that commercial interests of the Series are more important than principles.  He missed a major opportunity to do the right thing.


The identity and values that exemplify your company should inform your response in a crisis.#ConversationsInCrisisTWEET THIS
A lack of timely action made the entire association look as if it was lacking integrity.#ConversationsInCrisisTWEET THIS
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