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Jackie Robinson West Parents Seeking To Get National Title Back

CHICAGO (CBS) -- The parents of former Jackie Robinson West players want the team's national championship reinstated, more than a year after Little League officials stripped JRW of its title over a cheating scandal.

Last week, parents of 13 former JRW players filed a sweeping lawsuit against Little League International, ESPN, officials from the local league and whistleblower Chris Janes. Among other allegations, the lawsuit alleged several people improperly profited from the team's success.

In addition, the suit alleges the controversy resulted in emotional distress, defamation of character and invasion of privacy of the team's members and family.

Jackie Robinson West won the national championship title in the 2014 Little League World Series but was stripped of that title last year, after Little League International ruled JRW officials allowed ineligible players, who lived outside the team's designated boundaries, to play on the team.

On Monday, their attorney said it was up to the league to bring those allegations up before the end of the 2014 Little League World Series. He said parents did their job of handing over proof of residency and a boundary map.

Little League officials have said JRW officials twice submitted fraudulent boundary maps to the league, improperly expanding the team's boundaries to include players who otherwise would have been ineligible to play.

The JRW parents' attorney, James Karamanis said Little League International and local Jackie Robinson West league officials – including former league president Bill Haley – knew about the residency issues during the team's winning run in the 2014 Little League World Series.

"Little League and JRW Inc. allowed the tournament team to go to the White House, to go to the Major League World Series, knowing of a potential problem," he said.


The lawsuit, filed in Cook County Circuit Court on Thursday, claims ESPN commentator Stephen A. Smith, in a segment on the show "First Take," inaccurately said JRW parents perpetuated a fraud and falsified documents.

Karamanis said Haley knew several children on Jackie Robinson West lived outside the team's boundaries, but he told parents they were eligible to play. Karamanis said the parents had no knowledge of the residency issues, and the ordeal has taken a huge emotional toll on them and the players.

"We brought this lawsuit for a number of reasons, but mainly to address the misconceptions, unfairness related to the parents; and the exploitive conduct of Little League and JRW Inc.," Karamanis said. "Our main goal is to seek reinstatement of JRW tournament team as champions, as well as to seek compensation for disruption and distress this has caused the children and the parents in their everyday lives."

The suit also contends Little League International intentionally hid the eligibility questions in order gain favorable publicity for their organization and to profit from the team's success. The suit claims Little League earned "hundreds of thousands of dollars" in revenue.

It was Evergreen Park Little League coach Chris Janes who initially raised questions about the residency of some of the JRW players, which led to the Little League International investigation.

The suit accuses Janes of intentionally launching his own investigation into the residency issue but didn't say anything until after the team won its national championship. Janes committed invasion of privacy by using the families' license plates to determine their home addresses and then reporting them to Little League, the suit claims.

Karamanis did not specify how a dollar amount for the financial damages the JRW parents would be seeking.

A Little League International spokesman said the league stands by the decision to strip JRW of the 2014 national title.

"As Little League International has not yet been served with this lawsuit and as it involves the interests of minors, at this time it would be inappropriate to comment further while the legal process evolves," spokesman Brian McClintock said in an email.

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