The Jackie Robinson West players and their families are about to see the ugly side of fame.
In this instance, a rival team is alleging Jackie Robinson West violated residency rules to put together a championship team.
Although Little League International dismissed those allegations on Tuesday, the mud left a visible stain.
Headlines that once declared the talented boys “champs,” were calling them “cheats.” And a rival team called on Little League officials to strip the champions of their title.
Considering the pure joy this Little League team brought the entire nation last summer, this is a stunning development.
Bill Haley, executive director of Jackie Robinson West, did not return phone calls about this matter on Wednesday.
But frankly, I can’t understand why Chris Janes, the vice president of the Evergreen Park Athletic Association, is taking it to this level.
While he is within his rights to complain, at this point, he’s throwing dirt on innocent kids — kids who stole the city’s heart.
At the very best, Janes comes off looking like a hater since JRW beat his team 43-2.
The Little League volunteer denied being on a personal vendetta or that his allegations against the Jackie Robinson team were motivated by race, as some of his critics have suggested.
“I understand that people make misinformed assumptions about people. I am not a bigot. My wife of 14 years is a black woman and we have four sons together,” he told me on Wednesday.
The fact that Jackie Robinson West is an all-black team didn’t factor into the accusations, nor did racism, Janes added.
“It is patently untrue and there is no fact-based reason to make that assumption,” he said.
Given the uneasy racial climate that exists right now, Janes said linking racism to his call for the International Little League to investigate Jackie Robinson West, is “irresponsible.”
“It has very little to do with JRW,” he said. “This is about coaches and parents that conspired to make this happen.”
It was the frenzy on social media over Jackie Robinson West’s rise at nationals that caught Janes’ attention.
“Different towns were celebrating their “community heroes. I’m responsible for being the voice of the parents [Evergreen Park Athletic Association] and they were seeing the same things that I was seeing,” he said.
“You can’t play in a league that is not in your boundary. We have rules. It can’t be it doesn’t matter where you live,” he said.
“Other leagues will start doing the exact same thing. If leagues continue to bend and break the rules, the league is not going to be around long enough for my youngest son to play,” he added.
Still, Janes’ accusation shows why we have a ways to go when it comes to race relations.
Instead of celebrating the success of this all-black team, it looks like Janes is tearing it down.
While going down this path might make him a hero in the eyes of people who are sticklers for “rules” and those who think it should have been their sons in Williamsport competing in the World’s Series, Janes is just going to look like a racist to most blacks.
Historically, rules have been used to exclude African-Americans, not include them.
Additionally, it wasn’t where the players lived that made the difference. It was the dedication parents showed through the team’s losses.
Finally, we shouldn’t forget that Little League baseball is supposed to be about boys having fun.
Pat Wilson, senior vice president of operations for Little League International, determined that Jackie Robinson West fulfilled its obligation to provide documentation related to residency rules.
That should be it.
The only conspiracy these parents are guilty of is giving their sons a place to succeed.