Feb. 16, 2015

Big League Kids, Little League Adults

Jesse Jackson takes up the case of a ball team stripped of its title.

Little League Baseball revoked Chicago’s Jackie Robinson West all-stars’ United States championship last Wednesday. The reason was straight-forward: The team used players who lived outside the boundaries allowed by the rules. Team manager Donald Butler was suspended from Little League, and Illinois District 4 administrator Michael Kelly has been removed from his position. Little League International CEO Stephen D. Keener called it a “heartbreaking decision,” but one necessary to “maintain the integrity of the Little League program.” Enter those with no integrity at all: “Is this about boundaries or race?” wondered professional agitator Jessie Jackson.

“This decision’s untimely and inappropriate at this time,” Jackson added. “It should not take six months after a team has played a championship game to determine eligibility to play the game in the first place.”

Is there the slightest doubt that if an investigation had taken half that time or less Jackson would be bemoaning a “rush to judgment” just as facilely?

Activist Rev. Michael Pfleger, who admires Rev. Jeremiah Wright and Louis Farrakhan and shares their belief that America is an irredeemably racist nation, was equally up to the task of obscuring the real problem. “When you’re going over to voter registration and going to birth certificates and doing all this time of hunting and a witch hunt that’s been going on for the last number of months, I can’t help but wonder the question if the same thing would have been done with another team from another place, another race,” Pfleger spewed.

The facts? Little League officials acknowledged a map redrafting process took place in 2013 – but no changes were submitted for approval. League officials explained that Jackie Robinson West “knowingly expanded its boundaries to include territory that belonged to other leagues in the district.” Moreover, local league officials admitted they had “direct knowledge of this rules violation” when asked by Little League officials during the investigation. Keener also cleared up any further ambiguity as well. “During our review, it became clear that both Jackie Robinson West officials and District Administrator Mike Kelly signed documents to make players eligible who should not have been,” he said.

DNAinfo columnist Mark Konkol summed up reality in a single paragraph: “All it took was a simple Internet search to find that a congresswoman, a suburban mayor, an elite traveling baseball league and Sports Illustrated posted details about the players’ suburban roots.”

The decision was made following allegations first made by Evergreen Park officials. They alerted Little League following a 43-2 wipeout at the hands of a Jackie Robinson West squad they described as “manipulating, bending and blatantly breaking the rules for the sole purpose of winning at all costs.” Teams from Illinois and Nevada also complained the team’s roster was rigged. Nevada’s Mountain Ridge team lost to Jackie Robinson West in the U.S. final. They will be awarded the championship – one Jackson insists they “did not earn.”

Mountain Ridge isn’t interested in Jackson’s misguided assessment or the title. “For us, it’s not about getting the title,” said Kristi Black, president of the Las Vegas league when its team was in Williamsport. “It’s about preserving the integrity of the Little League World Series. I spoke with a couple of our kids this morning, and they’re excited, but they feel terrible for the kids on the Chicago team. Our kids have moved on. They’re just of the mind that when rules are broken, that’s not acceptable.”

Jackson couldn’t care less. He promised the team’s parents would file a lawsuit over the decision, even as attorney Victor Henderson cautioned against “saber-rattling,” adding that “no lawyer worth his salt” would threaten to sue without knowing all the facts of the case.

For Jackson and his ilk, facts are irrelevant. What really matters is adding another chapter to the black victimist narrative that has brought him fame and fortune. While he pontificates, a bunch of young black kids are paying for the sins of adults who ought to know better.

And not just the sins of Butler and Kelly. Parent Carlton Hondras, whose son Trey played on the team, insisted that playing for Jackie Robinson West is a tradition “if you are from the city, whether you move out or not.” Parent Tammy King, who lived in the suburbs and changed her address on her driver’s license to one still beyond the boundaries of eligibility, was equally defiant. “I’m in the city of Chicago but do not have to disclose where I live,” she declared. Parents Christopher Green and Dr. Venisa Beasley-Green claimed ignorance of the rules. “We don’t know about boundaries,” Beasley-Green said. “We know it’s a city of Chicago requirement … no specific coordinates to play on a particular team.”

And it was Green who best summed up the mindset that allows Jackson and company to prosper: “It is amazing to me that whenever African-Americans exceed the expectations that there is always going to be fault.”

Sorry, but with the exception of the kids themselves there is plenty of fault to go around. And while it’s bad enough when adults countenance cheating, it’s worse when they jump on Jackson’s racialist bandwagon. Alleging racism to obscure cheating sends the execrable message that integrity itself is not a color-blind virtue – which is another way of saying the color of one’s skin trumps the content of one’s character. Such transparent nonsense is not only self-defeating, it turns Martin Luther King’s most enduring message on its head.

Does it get any more racist than that?

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