Little League Baseball is meeting to review facts surrounding the eligibility of the Chicago-based team that won the 2014 U.S. championship, amid allegations that the much-celebrated squad may have violated a rule prohibiting the use of players who live outside the geographic area that the team represents.
Stephen Keener, CEO of Little League Baseball, told ESPN that the findings of a recent review of the matter are complete and being evaluated. He declined to say whether Jackie Robinson West, the first all-African-American team to win the championship, could be stripped of its title, as one of its rivals has called for.
"All I can tell you ... is we are meeting [Tuesday] morning with our Charter Committee to discuss this and the findings from our review, which included meetings a week ago with neighboring leagues in Chicago," Keener said Monday night by email. "[I'm] not prepared at this time to commit to anything further. We'll have a statement on the outcome at the appropriate time."
Jackie Robinson West drew significant attention as it advanced to the tournament's title game, where it fell to Seoul, South Korea. In a sport that increasingly struggles to attract African-Americans, the team representing Chicago's South Side emerged as a force, beating Las Vegas 7-5 in the U.S. title game. The Chicago players were lauded for not just their prowess on the field but also for their sportsmanship, and they later were honored by President Barack Obama at the White House.
But, with reporting from Chicago website DNAinfo.com, the squad has been accused of using players from outside its local area by recruiting players from neighboring Little League districts to build what amounts to a superteam.
Little League embraces policies designed to preserve traditional community-based leagues in which classmates play with classmates, friends with friends. But in 2014, Jackie Robinson West officials reportedly expanded their territory to overlap with neighboring leagues.
Kristi Black, who was president of Nevada's Mountain Ridge Little League when it lost in the U.S. championship game, has asked that Little League to strip Jackie Robinson West of its title. She told ESPN that she is not asking that Las Vegas be declared champions, though.
"It's not a matter of changing the name on the title or the championship," Black said. "The outcome of the game is what it is, and the kids have moved on. For us, it's more of an ethics thing, a matter of doing what's right. Our intention is to not have the next 27 kids put in this position."
Black said that Little League officials last week requested the boundaries for her local league as well, which she said she provided.
Officials and coaches with Jackie Robinson West have denied any wrongdoing.