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Foul Play

February 12th, 2015

Jackie Robinson West team. Photo credit: Christopher Dilts for Governor Pat Quinn/via Flickr/CC

Little League Baseball has taken away the 2014 U.S. Championship title won by Jackie Robinson West — because the adults were cheating. Gggrrrrrr.

Adults leading the team recruited players from beyond the boundaries allowed in their Chicago South Side district. That means they were able to get some better players from farther away than the rules said they could. And it seems the adults knowingly broke the rules.

It’s a particularly sad situation for the kids on the team because they did what they were supposed to do. They played baseball.

The team’s manager and a district administrator have been suspended from the team. But, unfortunately, stripping them of their championship, punishes the kids too.

Their win was a particularly big deal because they were the first all-black team to win the U.S. Championship, and their win earned them a trip to the White House where President Obama congratulated them. President Obama is from Chicago.

Little League International president Stephen Keener told ESPN on Wednesday : “Quite honestly, we had to do this. We had no choice. We had to maintain the integrity of the Little League program. … The real troubling part of this is that we feel horribly for the kids who are involved with this. … They were just kids out playing baseball, which is the way it should be. … What we’re most concerned about today is that it’s going to be hard on these kids. And that’s the part that breaks your heart.”

Brandon Green, a player on the team said in a press conference : “We went down there to play baseball and we weren’t involved in anything that could have caused us to be stripped of our championship  … we know that we’re champions and our parents know that we’re champions and the team’s parents know we’re champions and Chicago knows we’re champions.”

Famous civil rights leader, Jesse Jackson, added that this decision was “not right and not necessary.”

The title has now been awarded to the Mountain Ridge Little League team in Las Vegas.

But it’s not the same. They played fair and in a way were punished for it too. They didn’t get to feel earning their win, the championship, the chance to move on to the next round, the chance to celebrate their hard work and victory, a hometown parade, the newspaper articles, or the trip to the White House.

It’s bittersweet for all involved. A young player on Mountain Ridge’s team said in an interview on NBC Nightly News : “I was so happy when we got the title … but I was also sad for Jackie Robinson Little League.”

The world would be a better place if we let kids be kids (and maybe let them run the place while we’re at it).

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