Jackie Robinson West supporters plan rally, say racism influenced Little League decision

Leah Hope Image
Wednesday, February 11, 2015
JRW supporters react to stripped title
Players, parents and supporters of Jackie Robinson West spoke out after the league was stripped of its national title.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- After Jackie Robinson West was stripped of their national title in the 2014 Little League World Series, some are saying that racism influenced the Little League's decision.

This summer, the stories about Jackie Robinson West were about much more than baseball. Now, some players, parents and community leaders are saying that the persistent attention and investigation of the league also goes deeper.

Rev. Jesse Jackson led a solemn press conference Wednesday about Chicago's former national Little League champions.

"Little League says that they teach character and they teach courage. Well, this isn't an act of courage and this sure isn't an act of character. Brandon Green and his teammates, they earned the championship win and we will not stop until justice is done," said Venisa Green, mother of JRW player Brandon Green.

"You need to reverse this unless you're going to go after all 16 teams. This is a racist attack and racist at the foot of this, and there's no way I'll back off from that, none whatsoever," Pfleger said.

"This is persecution. This is not right, it's unnecessary. And it's not fair," Jackson said.

Jackson says this is still new, and the group is still evaluating options including possible legal action. They say the Jackie Robinson team was singled out for scrutiny and if there is an investigation of them, there should be an investigation of all 16 teams in the Little League World Series. And they say if rules were broken, it's the adults who should face repercussions, not the kids.

"A lot of people feel the players - the boys, the young men - should not be punished for the actions of a few," said Ronald Holt, community leader.

Some parents of Jackie Robinson West says they were blindsided by the news that the team would have their title revoked.

"It's sad, it's real sad. These are kids, they don't deserve this. And if they're gonna investigate them, I feel that all the other teams should be investigated, too," said Devona Benton, mother.

"This is America. You have to explain to our children that this is America and this is how it works in America," said Dennis Butler, grandfather of a JRW player.

For the team that united a city and a nation last summer, the boys were all about baseball and still are. The players shared their disappointment with the decision with the same poise they took the field and handled the crush of attention last summer.

"Me and my teammates, we work hard all year long. And we went down there to play baseball and we weren't involved in anything that could've caused us to be stripped of our championship," said JRW player Brandon Green.

It seems Little League International is trying to teach the lesson that you win as a team and you lose as a team, but some say the lesson is being taken much harder by the players than the adults.

This weekend, Rainbow PUSH plans to have a rally for the players to remind them that they are still champions on the South Side.

The rally will begin at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday, Feb. 14, at Rainbow PUSH headquarters on 930 E. 50th Street.