'Give us time,' says JRW attorney looking into Little League ruling

ByABC7 Team Coverage WLS logo
Thursday, February 12, 2015
JRW attorney looking into Little League ruling
The attorney for the Jackie Robinson West team said he will take a closer look at Little League's decision to strip JRW of its title.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- The attorney for the Jackie Robinson West team said Thursday that no lawsuit has been filed, but he will take a closer look at Little League's decision to strip JRW of its title.

JRW players canceled their scheduled practice Thursday night at an Evergreen Park sports complex hours after team leaders appealed for support. JRW Director Bill Haley stood with other family members, the coach, parents and their attorney to address the public on Thursday afternoon.

"You are not wrong with sticking with our boys then. You are not wrong to stick with our boys now," Bill Haley said.

JRW's attorney Victor Henderson is seeking more information about Little League's policies and findings, the day after the JRW team was stripped of its title by Little League International for breaking the organization's residency rules. He says the team has yet to receive formal notice that its title has been stripped, and until then, they should still be considered the champs.

"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."


Sports law attorney Eldon Ham successfully defended the Bears' Richard Dent when he was suspended in 1988 for refusing a drug test. The 30-day suspension was lifted after it was shown to be an arbitrary punishment, not spelled out in the NFL's rules.

Though an uphill climb, Ham says JRW - as the first team ever to lose a title because of residency issues - could argue it was punished selectively.

"In this tournament if it were common for Little League teams to use "ringers", outside players, they would argue that as a matter of fairness and as a matter of practice, they didn't do anything unusual," Ham said.


The coach who was first to blow the whistle on JRW respond Thursday night to a Chicago mother's accusation that her son, despite living on the South Side, was allowed to play in Evergreen Park. The league provided ABC7 with paperwork showing the boy's address wasn't forged.

Evergreen Park does allow Chicago kids to play during the regular season, but there's a catch.

"We let them know up front if you're not within our boundary, you will not be eligible to play on an all-star team," said Chris Janes, Evergreen Park Athletic Association.

That claim was backed up by a Chicago father who told ABC7 his son played for Evergreen Park during the regular season last year. He was likely good enough to play tournament ball, but he was told he couldn't play for Evergreen Park because he lived in Chicago.

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Little League International says it stands by the decision to strip JRW of its title, despite objections across the city and at City Hall.

"Every home run they hit, they hit. Every double play they made, they made and you can't take that away from them. And while there will be ramifications and people will be held and should be held accountable, it's not the kids," Mayor Rahm Emanuel said.

Mayor Emanuel personally called Little League International Wednesday asking them to change the decision


The young athletes, who captured hearts across Chicago and across the nation last summer, are keeping their heads up.

"I haven't taken it in a bad way. I know we won and I know we deserve the championship. It just showed me today that there are people out there that don't want you to succeed," said Marquis Jackson, a JRW player.

"We're doing good. We know they're the U.S. champs. All they did was play baseball. We're proud of that," said Darlene Luster, another JRW parent.

"I love the boys to death. They did their thing. They'll always be champs, forever in my heart. A great group of guys. They played their tails off. The whole nation saw it. The whole nation loved them," Coach Darold Butler said.


All of Jackie Robinson West's wins were vacated on Wednesday and other local teams were given titles they previous held.

-Mountain Ridge Little League from Las Vegas gets the U.S. World Series Championship title.

-New Albany Little League in southern Indiana is now the Great Lakes Regional Champion.

-Tri-Cities Little League from the northwest suburbs gets the Illinois State Championship.

-Lansing Little League from the south suburbs is now the Illinois Section 3 Champion.

-Rosemoor Little League in Chicago gets the District 4 title.

Tri-Cities players hail from East Dundee, West Dundee, Carpentersville, Sleepy Hollow and Gilberts in the northwest suburbs. Tri-Cities Coach Tim Mahoney said he's heartbroken for the JRW players and that this setback doesn't diminish how well the boys competed.

"The one thing as a young athlete, what we can celebrate is that we know that we worked really hard to go compete against the best teams at the state, at the state tournament in Illinois. We got the opportunity to play against the best and we got beat. But that's okay because if we celebrate the process and effort moving into, that's really - from a youth athletic perspective - what we should be celebrating," Mahoney said.

Coaches and players from Pearland, Texas, have also expressed sympathy for the JRW players. They have echoed the popular sentiment that the boys did nothing wrong, but paid the price for team leaders who broke boundary rules.

Those players also wonder if the outcome could have been different. "It kind of hurts, you know? We had our dreams dashed by them. Knowing they did not do what they were supposed to, it kind of hurts," said Josh, who plays for Pearland.

The boys on all of these teams got to know each other during the Little League season. Some became friends.