The Rev. Jesse Jackson once again rallied for the embattled Jackie Robinson West Little League team on Saturday, calling on the community that supported the team to pressure Little League International into returning their national title.
Jackson’s son Jonathan took things a bit further, saying the team did not abide by its boundary rules because of Chicago’s segregation and school system.
Little League International last week announced it would strip the South Side baseball team of the national championship because the adults running the program tried to steal territory that was home to talented players from neighboring programs by falsifying and backdating maps.
Jonathan Jackson implored Little League International to learn more about Chicago.
“If we could simply have a conversation with the international Little League in Williamsport, Pennsylvania,” said Jonathan Jackson, the national spokesman for the Rainbow PUSH Coalition.
“I would like to invite them to come to my hometown.”
He said he’d share statistics on school closings, and the city’s murder rate.
“There are some footnotes that need to be made,” he said, blaming city resources for the reason why some Little League players went to schools outside their communities.
“Our boundaries were blown by the city government,” he said.
“Please have mercy on the children.”
Jonathan Jackson said Little League has had a long history of segregation, and that it continues.
“This should be a trial about segregation,” he said.
Despite talk of where players went to school and lived, Jonathan Jackson did not address Little League’s finding that the league changed team boundaries to draw in star players from the south suburbs.
Instead, he told the crowd of more than a hundred that the kids should not be blamed: “Did the kids do this?” he asked.
The crowd chanted “No.”
Just three players — D.J. Butler, Brandon Green and Joshua Houston — attended the rally, which was as enthusiastic as the rallies Chicagoans held during the team’s run for the title.
“I think it’s great that the neighborhood can come out and support us,” Green told the crowd.
Josh’s father Jerry Houston, a JRW coach, was seated on stage near his son. JRW manager Darold Butler, D.J.’s father, was not in attendance.
He has been suspended by Little League International.
The Rev. Jackson told supporters to send letters to Little League International, and read out the organization’s address in Williamsport.
He said the city should erect a statue in JRW’s honor, and that supporters should create scholarships for the 13 players.
“These children are more than champions, they’re heroes,” he said.
“Give our boys their title.”
Supporters filling the pews wore JRW championship t-shirts and jackets. The players wore their jerseys.
Fr. Michael Pfleger, who earlier this week claimed the investigation was sparked by racism, wore a JRW championship shirt that read “Still” with a red stamp.
The Rev. Jackson had the hundreds in the crowd chanting “Save the children” and “Keep hope alive.”
When asked by reporters what lesson was learned by the JRW scandal, he stood by the team’s innocence: “You don’t have to be guilty to be crucified.”