Pete Rose must lose his final connection, a national TV gig, to life in baseball

The latest, and utterly disturbing, news about Pete Rose warrants no response other than this one: He must be held accountable in whatever way, by whatever power and to whatever extent that all these years later remains possible. 

Which means Fox Sports has to fire him. Today.

It turns out that the truly unsettling fact about Major League Baseball's all-time hits leader is not any link he forged between the game he loved and gambling he could not shake. That controversy, the one that has kept him out of the Hall of Fame and banished from baseball, seems almost trite by comparison. 

The details of Rose's transgression this time are reprehensible. Rose has admitted to having a sexual relationship with a 16-year-old girl when he was 34, married and a father of two. The admission comes in Rose's defamation suit against John Dowd, the former special counsel to the commissioner of Major League Baseball whose investigation led to Rose's lifetime ban -- and who, on a radio show, accused Rose of statutory rape. 

Rose's defense is no plea of decency: He says he slept with that girl when she was 16, Ohio's age of consent at the time. The young woman, known in the filing as "Jane Doe," claims in a sworn statement that their sexual relationship began before she turned 16, which would put her under that age of consent. 

Either way, Rose has done contemptible things time cannot erase. Some things, crimes or otherwise, do not deserve to be forgotten or taken lightly. 

Some form of justice should find its way to him. 

That will not come from the law. Rose maintains he did nothing illegal. Even if his claim could be proven false, the statute of limitations has long since expired on alleged statutory rape dating to the 1970s. 

But an adult celebrity sleeping with a young girl has no expiration date for its sickness, its grotesqueness, its disgracefulness. 

Pete Rose needs to be punished. The law can't do it. The Hall of Fame long ago was taken away. The Philadelphia Phillies, to their credit, will not have Rose at their Alumni Weekend festivities at Citizens Bank Park from Aug. 10-13, but that is not enough. Not by a long stretch. 

And that means the only punishment left that matters -- the only place that can serve up justice -- and the only thing to really take away from Pete Rose is his last true link to baseball through Fox Sports. 

They must fire him. 

Now. 

I take no pleasure in the fact that Fox Sports, by believing in Rose and giving him a chance, has become the only judge and jury that can reach him. But that's the reality. Rose must be forced from his only remaining connection to the game of baseball. Since that connection runs through Fox Sports, Fox Sports must sever it. 

Full disclosure: I worked at Fox Sports for seven years. I love the people there. They believed in me when no one else did and helped to give me careers in radio, TV and writing I never imagined possible. Many of the individuals who have to make these decisions are good people I know personally and care about. Good fathers. Good husbands. Good people. 

Now they must be those people at work, in a business where on-camera talent can obscure truths all too easy to ignore. They need to send this charming and likable legend packing. 

It is one thing to embrace debate. To court edginess. To even bring in so-called "bad guys" who were controversial in a sports sense. Guys who weren't likable until their skill on television transformed them. Alex Rodriguez is a great example. And I thought Pete Rose was, too. 

But it turns out Rose is something else entirely, and that ability TV offers to the skilled and camera-likable to reinvent one's reputation should no longer be bestowed on him. It's up to Fox Sports to do the right thing. 

This is a tough business, all the more tough on the TV side. When I left Fox I did so knowing the company that had given me my big break was a great place full of great people. That's true despite what followed: Folks throughout that company were called in, looked in the eye and told they were out of jobs for reasons that by comparison seem trivial: a new vision, a different approach, a retrenchment from news, a shift in the political winds. 

Fine. Awful, but part of this business. That's how it goes, even when you think it shouldn't. 

But now Fox has to call in Pete Rose and for reasons much more important tell him goodbye. Look that man who admitted to sleeping with a teenage girl in the eye and say to him: "You have done something wrong and we don't care that it was a long time ago. You have to go." 

That would be true if he worked for this company -- CBS Sports, for ESPN, for the Vertical, for Bill Simmons' website, for any media company. Fox Sports is already under the microscope for allegations of sexual harassment involving people in power. 

At a certain point standards must override talent. At a certain point -- no, at this point -- there are matters that rise above great content, winning chemistry and the fame and allure I have personally experienced in Rose's presence. I've been around him in a green room and, when I did radio in Los Angeles, at a nearby Italian restaurant where Rose regularly had lunch and held court. And I would be lying if I said anything other than I often ate there to be in the presence of baseball's all-time hits leader. I didn't care about his gambling. I didn't care about the stain on his reputation. I wanted to be in the presence of that greatness, and he was funny and charming and told stories that made it like you were close to seeing and shaking the hand of a Babe Ruth or a Ty Cobb. 

I get it: Pete Rose is charming and likable and funny. Irascible. A touchstone to a different time. And he still has to be fired. 

So to those folks who have a lot of power at Fox Sports, many of whom I know and respect, it's time. 

A grown man you employ once utilized his fame, position and rank in the sports world to have sex with a 16-year-old girl. He must be punished. It's almost fitting that, given sports media's role in bestowing some of that fame and rank, one of our own can now do the right thing and take it away from this man. 

So do just that, Fox Sports. 

Call Pete Rose into one of those offices, look him in the eye and tell him to get the hell out and never come back.

National Columnist

Bill Reiter began his career as a newspaper journalist before becoming a national columnist at CBS Sports. He currently hosts a national CBS Sports radio show from New York City from 6 to 10 p.m. ET called... Full Bio

Our Latest Stories
    Astros ALCS Champs Gear