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Jackie Robinson West: Still Champions

The sad news that Jackie Robinson West was stripped of their Championship title due to the alleged acts of adults, has caused uproar, and rightfully so.

Despite the behind-the-scenes moves, the talent, the tenacity, strength and motivation of these youngsters should not be forgotten. The youth who did nothing more but dedicate their time and focus to a game they enjoy should not be punished.

So many JET readers expressed outrage and angst at the decision to declare the Las Vegas team as the U.S. Champions.  We asked for feedback through our Talk Back form, and boy did we get it.  Check out some moving, and insightful, words about what happened to these children.

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From Jeff Beckham, Jr. This is about “selective justice”:

I’ve been sitting all day trying to reconcile my mind and heart to get in sync with how I feel around the stripping of Jackie Robinson West (JRW) of their US Championship title for the Little League World Series (LLWS). I started to think back to my time as a youth baseball player and how my parents would look to find programs and traveling teams for me that were welcoming, well ran, and could train me to be a better player. When we first moved to the suburbs I played in the Hazel Crest baseball league. After a year or two of bad coaches and mismanagement my parents enrolled me in the Homewood league where I would meet and play with many boys who grew to be lifelong friends. The league was simply better. The fields were like minor league ballparks and the coaches and organization was much improved from the Hazel Crest league. I assume that since we weren’t residents of Homewood that had we moved on to the LLWS we’d have been out of compliance per boundary rules too.

The thought that I’m really struggling with however is that these kids are the ones being punished by the misdeeds of adults. Vacating their title and placing an asterisk in a record book next to their name doesn’t really address the fault of the parents in charge. It also tells them that all their hard work is invalid and that just doesn’t sit will wit me. Not only did Little League make hundreds of thousands off of exploiting the imagery, story, and good-will created by these young men, money was made by ESPN and many other outlets who leveraged the JRW story and placed it on a national spotlight as the juxtaposition of violent crime in Chicago. In my opinion these young men are champions and deserve every accolade.

Where are we as a society when we have two sets of rules that apply in our country. On one end we tell Tom Brady and the Patriots it’s not ok to cheat but we will allow you to move on and play in the Super Bowl and become champions because you “say” you didn’t know the football used in the AFC Championship game were deflated and on the other we strip the kids of their title because they played baseball and lived outside the boundaries and played at the instruction of their coaches. I know it’s different sports, different circumstances, and different levels however it just doesn’t feel like justice has been served. Were rules broken? Yes! Does it make it right because it probably happens in leagues throughout the country everyday? No! However it is my opinion that Little League could have easily suspended the coaches and administrators but let these kids maintain their championship and made plans to establish better more equitable rules moving forward around boundaries and residency. I think it that the move you still instill values of accountability and the punishment is the punishment is pointed in the direction of where it should be.

My friend Brian Sleet (@Bsleet) said it best, “for those who think it’s just about race, it’s not.. It’s about selective justice that gives black kids in the hood felonies that bar them from getting college loans while giving rich kids in the burbs a slap on the wrist and a lesson for their future. This dichotomy is killing this country right now because the constant underclass is killing local economies and local government budgets.”

Selective justice is injustice and a threat to justice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. This selective justice certainly causes the cognitive dissonance I’m feeling today. There is one thing that I’ve always held to as a kid and now as an adult. It’s a lesson my parents taught me. If it doesn’t feel right it’s probably wrong and today’s decision and handling of this entire situation feels terrible.

From Brioni Emmanuelle on the legitimacy of roster and unfairness of stripping JRW:

It is incredibly unfortunate that the children of Jackie Robinson West were stripped of their title due to a minor technicality. Particularly, when one of the stories from their historical season was about how one of the boys was dealing with homelessness. I need the powers that be to understand that these young, black boys aren’t all coming from the best situations and dig into their realities a bit deeper. The addresses they were ultimately tied to might not even be their real addresses. If boundaries weren’t such that much of our black youth are shut out from certain activities, maybe no one would feel the need to go to such extremes to force opportunities for their children. I’m thinking the boundaries need to be revisited and re-structured. The coach from Evergreen Park wouldn’t care who was on that team if his team had won. Also, if we’re going to check the legitimacy of rosters, check them all. Let’s not pick on one team, let’s make sure EVERYONE is meeting the standard. Maybe racism wasn’t the motivation, but it certainly was a form of hate. Why go to such lengths to discredit THEM? In the end, the talent was there and those young men played their hearts out. They made history. That is something no (possibly) racist gumshoe can ever take from them.

From Erik – Racially motivated or strictly district policy?

I was on my way to work when I heard that #JRW was stripped of its LLWS title, WINS, and the title was given to Las Vegas. My initial reaction was anger. Yes, I admit, the first thought I had was “It’s only because jrw was ‘pwb’ playing while black.” After hearing that an Evergreen Park coach had a sore loser complex, I was pissed. This guy clearly had a vendetta against these boys from Southside. I knew it! This was all about race. Or was it? While it “feels” like this is racially motivated, and it could be, the reality is that it’s about district restrictions, paper work, and rules that seem a little convoluted.
At the same time #JRW was on the verge of galvanizing a city, a team from Georgia never made it out of regionals. It was an almost all-white team that was pulled from the tournament before going to the LLWS. However, in that case no adult is accused of any foul play unlike the adults involved in the Jackie Robinson West case. The bottom line, in both cases, the kids were wronged. And for anyone who suggests that they (jrw) were “in on it” get a life and grow up!

From Not A Average Joe:

We know from previous experience, that these actions are made by Adults…These children put their trust,respect & admiration into Coaches/etc & this is what they get back? I hope the blame goes to the proper source…NOT the children.

From Davinia Gordon: 

“They can take the title, but they CAN’T take:
-The victory that was rightfully won
-The unity of the entire city celebrating OUR boys
-The trip to the White House with our president honoring them
-One of the teammates getting free rent for a year because he was on the team
-Our pride and appreciation for them working together in a common goal

So we STILL celebrate our children!
We have lost NOTHING.
Don’t give that callous person that’s a sore loser anymore ammunition to feel like he won, because he DIDN’T.
Our children just simply shine that much brighter!”

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