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Jesse Jackson: Chicago Little League Stripped of Title Due to Race?

Image: Jesse Jackson: Chicago Little League Stripped of Title Due to Race?
Left to Right: Rev. Jessie Jackson, Rev. Michael Pfleger, Jackie Robinson West player Brandon Green and his mother Venisa. (Brian Kersey/UPI/Landov)

By    |   Thursday, 12 Feb 2015 01:15 PM

The Rev. Jesse Jackson says he wants to know if a title was really taken away from a Chicago Little League team after its coach added players who lived outside the team's boundaries, or if the decision was really about race.

"This decision's untimely and inappropriate at this time," Jackson told reporters Wednesday, reports CBS News. "It should not take six months after a team has played a championship game to determine eligibility to play the game in the first place."

Earlier on Wednesday, Little League International announced that the national title won by the Jackie Robinson West All-Stars would be taken away, after teams from Illinois and Nevada complained the team's roster was stacked with ineligible players.

Jackson called on Nevada's Mountain Ridge team, which lost to Jackie Robinson West, to not accept its newly awarded championship, saying the team "did not earn" it.

Yahoo News reports Jackson, who is a big fan of the team, is threatening a lawsuit over the decision.

He told The Chicago Sun-Times that he was "upset to the point of tears" over the decision, and plans to attend a "Reaffirmation of Championship” celebration on Saturday for the team.

Like Jackson, other team supporters and parents are saying that they think the decision was racially motivated, as the Chicago team's members are African-American.

"When you're going over to voter registration and going to birth certificates and doing all this time of hunting and a witch hunt that's been going on for the last number of months, I can't help but wonder the question if the same thing would have been done with another team from another place, another race," said The Rev. Michael Pfleger, also calling the Illinois team's complaints "mean-spirited" and "personal."

Parent Venisa Green told reporters that parents had to provide all kinds of information before their children could join the Chicago team, including "birth certificates, proof of schools, [and] light bills," reports CBS.

But like Jackson, she wonders if the decision was racially motivated.

"It is amazing to me that whenever African-Americans exceed the expectations that there is always going to be fault," Green said.

Meanwhile, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who mentioned the team in speeches throughout the summer, told The Sun-Times that the decision does not take away from the team's achievements.

"These remarkable boys brought our entire city together and reminded all Chicagoans how important it is to support our children," said Emanuel. "They created memories that will last a lifetime and nothing will take that away.

"They showed the nation their character both on and off the field. The city remains united in its support of these great children and in our hearts, they will always be champions in Chicago.”

But Evergreen Park Little League Vice President Chris Janes, of the Illinois team that filed the initial complaint, told CBS that "Little League has very specific rules in terms of where somebody should live in order to play for a particular [team]. JRW's boundaries are very specific and do not extend into any suburbs."

Further, Janes told The Chicago Tribune that the decision was tough, but "the kids will be OK."

Janes said he turned in the rival team, which defeated his team this year, because it was cheating by going outside its boundaries to recruit players.

"They went through great lengths to obtain these kids," Janes said. "These are kids that lived really far away. They changed boundaries to fit addresses to make them eligible to play. This was a plan. This was not something they thought about the other day."

Nevada's Mountain Ridge was the other team filing complaints, and coach Ashton Cave said the Chicago team's leaders "tricked people, and they blindsided others, and they did those things that were strategic but illegal."

Last year, an initial inquiry cleared the Jackie Robinson West team, but then new information was submitted and reopened the investigation.

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The Rev. Jesse Jackson says he wants to know if a title was really taken away from a Chicago Little League team after its coach added players who lived outside the team's boundaries, or if the decision was really about race.
chicago, little league, jackie robinson, title, blacks
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2015-15-12
Thursday, 12 Feb 2015 01:15 PM
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