The truth of this statement was proved on Wednesday morning when Little League International stripped the all African-American Little League team Jackie Robinson West of its U.S. title, citing the use of illegal geographic boundaries. The U.S. title will be awarded to the Las Vegas team that Jackie Robinson West defeated in the U.S. championship game. In addition to stripping the team of its title, Little League International will vacate all wins of Jackie Robinson West from the 2014 Little League World Series tournament, including the team’s Great Lakes regional title. Darold Butler, the team’s manager, has been suspended and the team has been put on probation until the team’s president and treasurer have been replaced and the team is fully compliant with league regulations.
Beginning as early as September, the charge to investigate Jackie Robinson West was led by Chris Janes from the nearby Evergreen Park Little League, a team Jackie Robinson West bested 43-2 on its way to the Little League World Series tournament. The following months would see various other Little League rivals questioning the integrity of Jackie Robinson West and the geographic boundaries used for its players.
With its Cinderella-esque rise from the negativity and cloud of violence surrounding the South Side of Chicago, one has to question whether this would be happening if Jackie Robinson West were not a team of young African-American boys playing a sport that is not traditionally seen as attractive to African-Americans? Would their detractors feel as strongly if Jackie Robinson West did not practically embarrass the other little league teams in what surely those defeated feel is not “their” sport?
Admittedly, everything does not need to turn into a race war. However, considering this is the first time in 22 years that a team has been stripped of its title due solely to boundary issues, one has to wonder if these investigations take place after every Little League World Series win; and if not, what was so special about Jackie Robinson West?
After this mess, there are three things we know for sure – Black history month is off to a less than celebratory start, adults are sore losers, and the next time Jackie Robinson West plays in the tournament, the fire in their belly to beat every single team will be unmatched.