A high-profile Chicago attorney says he’s working with local Little League officials to investigate the international governing body’s decision to strip the Chicago team of its national title.
Attorney Victor Henderson said during a news conference Thursday that he’ll look into Little League International’s ruling that local officials knowingly added ineligible players to the Jackie Robinson West team. Henderson also wants to know if other teams do the same thing.
Henderson was flanked by league officials, the team’s manager and the league’s director, Bill Haley. Haley says the team provided proof its players were eligible.
Little League International announced Wednesday that Jackie Robinson West was being stripped of its 2014 title because team officials falsified boundaries to include ineligible players and tried to persuade surrounding leagues to go along with the scheme.
At a news conference, Henderson said that the team had not received any details from Little League as to why it was being stripped of the title and only learned of the ruling by “watching TV.”
Hendeson said no lawsuit was planned until more diligence was done. He said claiming that a lawsuit was in the works would be nothing more than “saber-rattling.”
“We are going to take our time. We’re going to get the facts. We’re going to find out what rules were in play,” Henderson said. “This story isn’t over yet.”
Little League said Thursday that it stands by it decision and “will be working with its counsel to ensure Jackie Robinson West Little League officials and their attorney are fully educated regarding the factual basis of the decision.”
Hours after Little League International announced its stunning decision to strip a Chicago team of its national championship, the city’s mayor was on the phone asking the organization to reverse a decision that he said unfairly made the young players responsible.
But Little League International CEO Stephen D. Keener would not budge, telling Mayor Rahm Emanuel that as difficult as the decision was and as tough as it has been emotionally on the children and their families, the decision by the organization’s charter committee was final, according to the organization’s spokesman.
The organization announced Wednesday that Jackie Robinson West had been stripped of its title because team officials falsified boundaries so they could add ineligible players to the roster and that the officials then scrambled to persuade surrounding leagues to go along with what they’d done.
Little League International spokesman Brian McClintock would not detail the conversation between Keener and Emanuel. But the Chicago mayor’s office said that during the 10-minute call, first reported in the Chicago Sun-Times, Emanuel suggested alternative punishments could apply, including banning the league from playing for a certain period of time.
The decision has turned the young players into “perpetrators when they are victims,” Emanuel said, according to his office.
On Thursday, Emmanuel said, “I asked the president, or the head of the International Little League, that if you want to teach a lesson, then don’t hold people accountable that didn’t do something wrong. You’re actually teaching them the wrong lesson.”
On Wednesday, parents of the players and others expressed outrage that such an inspirational championship was being taken from the team of boys aged from 11 to 13 years. And one after another, they said Little League International was punishing the boys for something they had no hand in. Little League International has stressed there is no evidence that the boys were complicit in the scheme but that the adults in positions of authority clearly violated the rules.
USATODAY Sports contributed to this report