It is sad that a story that resonated and inspired so many has been imploded by so few. When Little League baseball—little league!—can be compromised by adults with their own agenda, it’s as clear an indication as any of the corruption that engulfs us.
Kids playing a kid’s game has gone political, controversial and, yes, racial, with the kids the ultimate losers in all the machinations by self-serving, jealous and timid adults.
Not just the Jackie Robinson West players who had their U.S. Championship rescinded on the heels of allegations that kids who did not live in the implicit district were playing on the team. But there will be other kids who will lose, too.
In the world we live in, when Black people achieve something significant, they still often are trailblazers setting the path for others to follow their journey.
Think the next all-Black team that dominates in little league baseball won’t be vetted beyond non-Black teams because of this fiasco? Of course, they will.
This isn’t about race; it’s about reality. Want to shield your vision from what has happened time and again in corporate American or newsrooms or apartment leasing offices, go ahead. Some of us set the stage for others to follow, and if one goes awry, the decision-makers (Caucasians) heavily consider that misstep before granting another African-American an opportunity.
Indeed, Black people often rue the conduct of other Black people. Say, for instance, Charles Barkley says something dumb, as he is wont to do. Many of us shudder, understanding that while Barkley does not represent us, his words and views inevitably will in some way be used against us.
That phenomenon makes this little league baseball scandal that much more disheartening and significant.
Even Jesse Jackson has come out from his seeming retirement to chime in on behalf of his fellow Chicagoans. “This is persecution. This is not right, it’s unnecessary. And it’s not fair,” Jackson said the other day at a press conference.
He may be right. This whole drama started when a mostly white team from Chicago called authorities to say the Jackie Robinson West squad had players on its roster that did not live in the district. This also, it is important to note, was after the JRW team beat the brakes off that mostly white team, 43-2. And this came after JRW had captured the nation with a Little League World Series run that was marked by immense talent and admirable grace.
Now, a city known for corruption in politics, has this on its ledger, too. And it’s the kids who are pained the most.
“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.
Renown Catholic priest Michael Pfleger said the words: “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.”
The argument that every team has players living outside the designated zones does not make what JRW is alleged to have done right. But it sure is interesting that Evergreen Park, the whistleblowers on JRW, had at least one player from outside its area on its team in 2011. Renee Cannon-Young said her son, Jacoby, was recruited to play in Evergreen Park’s Little League, despite living on Chicago’s South Side.
“The paperwork was filled out for me,” Cannon-Young said. “I was told that although he was not a resident of Evergreen Park, they were going to fix that so that he could play. Just use another address, and he would be able to play.”
When Cannon-Young learned of Evergreen Park’s ratting out JRW, she screamed hypocrisy.
So serious is this that Chicago mayor Raham Emanuel put it on his radar. He supports the team holding on to its championship. “Every home run was real,” he said. “Every great catch was real. The passion they brought from Chicago to Williamsport was real. And the character they showed on and off the field was real.”
In vacating the title, Emanuel said, “You have turned (the youths) into the perpetrators when they are the victims. You know what they have done for Chicago, and let’s face it, you know what they’ve done for your tournament.”
Jackie Robinson West player Brandon Green added: “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.”
This weekend, Rainbow PUSH (yes, it’s still around) plans to have a rally for the devastated and embarrassed players, to remind them that they are still champions, if not on paper any longer. Hovering above the occasion will be this truth: Adults who are supposed to be responsible let down the kids they are charged to protect.