Article originally published in the Philadelphia Business Journal on February 17, 2015
Last week, the U.S. Little League championship team Jackie Robinson West from Chicago was stripped of its title because it was found that the adult leaders of the team stacked its roster with players from outside its geography, a violation of Little League rules. Their opponent who lost the U.S. championship game, Mountain Ridge Little League, from Las Vegas, was then awarded the U.S. title.
Stephen Keener, president and CEO of Little League International, stated, “We had to do this, we had no choice. We have to maintain the integrity of the Little League program. We have over 7,000 Little League programs around the world that are looking at us to provide leadership and uphold the standards of our program. So as painful as this is, it is a necessary outcome from what we finally have been able to confirm. … We just feel horribly for the kids that are involved in this. … They were kids just out playing baseball … It’s going to be hard on these kids … that’s the part that breaks our hearts.”
Community activist Rev. Michael Pfleger said in a Philly.com article, “We are asking a law group to look into this, to investigate, because we are hearing from folks all over the country that the [geographic boundary] standards Jackie Robinson West is being held to … [are not the standards to which other teams are being held] …” Rev. Jesse Jackson has accused Little League Baseball of racism for stripping the title from JRW, the first all-African-American team to win the championship. Certainly, those supporting JRW will conduct their own investigation to determine if geographic boundary rules were violated, and determine if Little League Baseball has held other teams to the same standard.
If Little League geographic boundary rules were violated which favored one team over another, action must be taken. Just think how patently unfair it would be to the other teams if the team which violated the rules was not disqualified, even if the violation was not caused by the kids, but by the adults managing the team. If a team does violate the boundary rules and is not disqualified, what precedent does it set?