Mitchell: JRW won’t back down in Little League fight

SHARE Mitchell: JRW won’t back down in Little League fight
SHARE Mitchell: JRW won’t back down in Little League fight

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The Jackie Robinson West champions and their parents sat silently last week as attorney Victor Henderson announced the long-awaited court filing against Little League International.

In February, the organization stripped the team of the national championship over eligibility issues, including allegations that the team’s managers and coaches falsified boundary maps.

The boys of summer are becoming young men, as evidenced by the shadows of stubble over some lips and on a couple of chins. Their demeanor was different, too.

Instead of jubilee, most of the youngsters looked like they were playing a game that should have been called already.

OPINION

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But for the parents, coaches, and managers of the team that captivated the city, the game isn’t over until the final out.

“If we made mistakes, we are willing to stand by the mistakes,” Henderson said. “But we are going to make sure these young men are treated fairly. Little League has not met any burden to establish that Jackie Robinson West is not the official team.”

The attorney said Little League officials have refused to meet with the parents to discuss the investigation and failed to follow its own rules pertaining to protests over eligibility.

A spokesman for Little League International said its staff was in regular contact with Bill Haley, the son of JRW’s co-founder, throughout the process.“Ultimately, the Little League Charter/Tournament Committee found that Jackie Robinson West League violated Little League regulations by falsifying portions of its tournament eligibility affidavit,” Brian McClintock said.

Jackie Robinson West Little League attorney Victor Henderson announces a lawsuit Wednesday against the sport’s governing body, accusing it of improperly stripping JRW of the national title. AP photo

Jackie Robinson West Little League attorney Victor Henderson announces a lawsuit Wednesday against the sport’s governing body, accusing it of improperly stripping JRW of the national title. AP photo

Chris Janes, the whistleblower from Evergreen Park, raised eligibility questions after JRW entered tournament play.

Henderson says Little League publicly and repeatedly cleared JRW of eligibility problems after notifying the team on Sept. 9 that at least two players were ineligible.

Henderson acknowledged that some of the team’s players did not live within JRW’s boundaries but insisted there was no “falsified” map.

He pointed out that judging by the space the Little League rulebook devotes to eligibility protests, boundary issues are fairly common.

“JRW isn’t the first team in America with this problem. What is new is how it was handled,” Henderson said.

He is asking the Circuit Court of Cook County to compel Little League International to answer questions about how it reached its decision to strip JRW of the title.

“ We offered to sit down with a panel of retired federal judges. Little League International refused. Whatever information they have given us has been negligible,” he said.

Michael Kelley, the former District 4 administrator who was terminated as a result of the scandal, held a separate news conference the next day.

Kelley is alleging that Little League International wrongly accused him of approving a falsified boundary map for JRW.

“No one ever complained to me about the District map being improper,” Kelly said. “Little League has never asked for my input or to provide any information regarding the allegations surrounding JRW.”

Nicholas Gowen, his attorney, said: “Mr. Kelley wants his name exonerated. ‘He has been labeled a cheat around the world.”

Obviously, Little League International isn’t used to teams mounting such a challenge.

But JRW isn’t just any team. They are champions.

“We are not giving the title back,” Henderson said. “We are not giving it up.”

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