Monday, June 27, 2011


By Chartese Burnett

Last week, Jim Riggleman, manager of the Washington Nationals Baseball Club, shocked “the world” (certainly rocked the baseball universe) with his “abrupt” parting of ways with the baseball franchise. (By the way, these kinds of actions and decisions by rational people are rarely abrupt but usually a culmination of circumstances). His team had managed to put together an 11-game winning streak, surpassed the .500 mark in wins, and had just notched a win at home. I don’t know the back story of circumstances (we never do unless we are a principal in it); I only know what we’ve all heard during all of the news broadcasts that bombarded the air waves last week. The story inundated every local (and national) sports television broadcast, along with taking over much of the inventory on sports and news talk radio.

What really prompted Riggleman to leave, why he decided to leave, how he chose his manner of departure, for me, is personally not relevant. That decision is one that only intimately impacts Jim, his family and the Washington Nationals players and the club. What struck me as poignant, however, was Jim’s “press conference” that was held in the tunnel of Nationals Park after the fact. I listened intently, especially since I was stuck in horrific traffic on 395 South, and I reflected on his dialogue with reporters.

Oftentimes, we assume that key players (coaches, managers, players, front office staff) should look at their careers through a “different” lens than anyone else in the workforce. Certainly, sports professionals and those that work in that arena are afforded above "average” salaries and perks (their workplace is a game field or court and they get paid to entertain us); however, their jobs define their livelihood, lifestyle, and family dynamics, just as the work of anyone else who considers him/herself an employee.

I could appreciate and respect what I considered the “core” of Jim’s statement to the media, i.e. that he had to look himself in the mirror each day and live with himself. He went on to say (I am summarizing my interpretation) that, because his repeated requests to discuss with management his contract (extension, etc.) was not met, he felt that it was in HIS best interest to walk away. Riggleman alluded to not being able to “think outside the box in making coaching decisions” and that he ultimately felt that because there was a failure to have meetings regarding his compensation, he took from that he was not the manager that the club was convinced would be there next year, for the long haul, into the future.

Again, I am not offering any opinion on IF Jim’s leaving was right or wrong, IF the club was right or wrong; my only opinion is this: if someone strongly feels that his or her work is somehow not appreciated, valued, integral to the current and future success of their organization, and that is clearly and repeatedly demonstrated by their employer (by whichever barometers are used to make that determination), I respect and admire the courage it takes for an individual to stand up for what he or she believes in, to risk admonition by a world that’s watching, and to even walk away when the organization is thriving.

The most important resource a company possesses is its HUMAN resources; it’s personnel, staff, workers. And if THEY aren’t thriving and deemed important to the success that the organization is enjoying, then it’s not a good recipe for sustained success. Jim Riggleman made a decision with which he could live and one that, I assume, will allow him to sleep better at night. His decision will be debated for a long time, I am sure. And, at the end of the day, the opinions of others doesn’t matter when they aren’t walking in those shoes. I wish Jim Riggleman the best as he embarks upon another chapter of his life.

Chartese Burnett is Director of Non-Profit PR at Maroon PR. Contact her at

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