They let Rose be part of the All-Century Team, on-field at an MLB-sanctioned event (ASG). I think one e-mail to MLB would have cleared the issue of putting his name (not his image, not his likeness, but the 8 letters that spell out his name) on a card.
Though, it's not like they've been particularly troubled by the issue of putting Rose's name on cards in the past (2006 Topps):
It's such a non-issue, though. I wouldn't be surprised to learn Topps was behind the "outrage" that started it as part of a viral marketing campaign to get people talking about baseball cards.