Parents of Dethroned Chicago Little League Champs Suing ESPN and Stephen A. Smith

Cameron Bufford
The Associated Press
Chicago, IL

The parents of Chicago’s Jackie Robinson West youth baseball team, the little league team dethroned over recruiting violations, now sue the volunteers who led the team, Little League Baseball, rival coaches, as well as ESPN and commentator Stephen A. Smith.

Before Jackie Robinson West (JRW) won the Little League title in 2014 some coaches of other teams had pointed out that some of the kids on the team had been cherry picked from areas outside the team’s proper recruiting zone, making some of the players ineligible.

JRW, though, went on win Little League Baseball’s World Series. An all black team of pre-teens proved to be a popular story to tell in the media bringing the players a lot of congratulatory attention. The kids even traveled to the White House to visit with President Obama.

But the persistent rumors of the recruiting violations wouldn’t go away and by 2015 league officials acted to strip the team’s title over the irregularities.

Now the parents of the team charge that the league knew full well — long before the winning season — that JRW had recruiting violations but decided to ignore those problems in order to capitalize on the notoriety of an all-black team going all the way to the league’s world championship.

“Little League was aware of the potential residency issues of the children of the JRW Parents, but chose to ignore and/or deliberately conceal these facts in order to garner higher ratings, publicity, and money for defendant Little League,” attorney James Karamanis wrote in the lawsuit according to the Chicago Sun-Times.

Karamanis went on to explain how ESPN ended up being sued, as well.

“Little League deliberately capitalized on the notoriety of the JRW Team and the JRW Parents in order to bolster its corporate image, gain donations and otherwise profit from the unique appeal of the JRW Tournament Team . . . [to] enhance its corporate image to raise, among other things, the value of its television deal with ESPN”

The lawsuit was filed in a Cook County Circuit Court exactly one year after the team’s victory was stripped away.

This isn’t the first lawsuit filed by the team. In June of last year the team filed a lawsuit to have the league reverse its decision and return their 2014 title.

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