Attorney: Jackie Robinson West players exploited by Little League

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Attorney James Karamanis on Monday discussed the lawsuit that Jackie Robinson West parents are pursuing against Little League International, ESPN and local league officials. | Kevin Tanaka/For the Sun-Times.

The Jackie Robinson West baseball players deserve their national crown back after having the bases pulled out from under them by “exploitive” Little League and team officials who were informed of their addresses — and potential residency violations — months before the youths were stripped of the title for living beyond team boundaries, their lawyer said Monday.

Before the team lost the national trophy a year ago, they were celebrated at the White House. Their triumph delighted and united Chicago.

But any initial residency questions were met with official silence, said attorney James Karamanis. He filed the lawsuit last week and met with reporters Monday. That lawsuit suggests Little League sought to profit from the Cinderella story by delaying a response until after it inked a new deal with ESPN.

From qualifying tournaments through the championship during the summer of 2014, the players’ parents submitted documentation to JRW Inc., which filed birth certificates, boundary maps and proof of addresses with the district and region, Karamanis said.

At the end of the regional tournaments, Little League “may have become aware of potential residency issues,” he said, but “they allowed the JRW team to play on.”

Even after winning the national crown in August of 2014, “no one from the Little League, JRW Inc. said anything,” said Karamanis.

Though a September 9, 2014 email from team leader Bill Haley indicated there might be some ineligible players, “none of this was communicated to any of the parents,” he said.

Instead, “Little League and JRW Inc. allowed the tournament team to go to the White House” in November 2014, he said.

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Brandon Green and Lawrence Noble of the Jackie Robinson West, stand with their parents on Monday as their attorney discusses a lawsuit over their team being stripped of its U.S. title. | Kevin Tanaka/For the Sun-Times.

Players Lawrence Noble and Brandon Green and a number of team parents attended the lawyer’s news conference Monday at the Woodshop Art Gallery, 441 E. 75th. St. They stood for a photo underneath an Annie Lee print of a baseball player but declined to speak.

“We’re family,” said Linda Sneed, mother of player Marquis Jackson.

Little League said the organization stood by its actions, and ESPN has declined comment.

“As Little League International has not yet been served with this lawsuit and as it involves the interests of minors, at this time it would be inappropriate to comment further,” a Little League spokesman said via email.

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Brandon, Chrisopher, and Venisa Green watch Monday as James Karamanis talks to reporters about a lawsuit filed against Little League International, ESPN and local league officials. | Kevin Tanaka/For the Sun-Times.

Members of the Jackie Robinson West All Stars Little League baseball team are shown at an August 2014 rally celebrating the team’s U.S. Little League Championship. Little League International later stripped the team of that title after an investigation that it said found team officials had falsified local league boundaries so they could add ineligible players. | AP file photo

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