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Jackie Robinson West Sues Little League Over Removal Of National Title

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Lawyers for Jackie Robinson West have filed a lawsuit against Little League International, over the organization's decision to strip the team of its national title.

The league caused an uproar when it vacated all the all-black team's wins from the 2014 Little League World Series, including its national championship, for allegedly violating residency rules by bringing in top players who lived outside the team's established boundaries.

The young players had captured the hearts of Chicagoans, and many around the nation, but the league said team officials knowingly fielded players who were ineligible, and tried to cover it up.

Team officials hired attorney Victor Henderson to conduct their own investigation into whether they were unfairly singled out, and on Tuesday they filed a lawsuit against the league.


Henderson said the lawsuit, filed in Cook County Circuit Court, is essentially a petition designed to force Little League International to turn over all as-yet unseen information used to strip JRW of its national title.

The lawsuit alleges Little League International failed to provide information to Jackie Robinson West, explaining its punishment. The suit also alleges the league failed to mention any specific violation of the rules.

"Until Little League International establishes to us that they have, in fact, acted properly, then we are not willing to concede that these young men are not still the champions from 2014," Henderson said.

Henderson said he isn't claiming JRW did not have ineligible players on the field, but said the Little League rulebook requires the league to check each team's paperwork during tournament play, and any protests should be lodged before the games are played.

"I can't tell you whether Little League looked at all of the paperwork for all of the teams that were [playing] in Indianapolis. I don't know, because when I tried to sit down with them, they wouldn't talk to me," he said. "I don't know if Little League reviewed all of the paperwork for all of the teams, other than Jackie Robinson West."

Evergreen Park Little League coach Chris Janes raised questions about the eligibility of some JRW players after the team won the Little League World Series national championship.

"What I can tell you is prior to this team becoming champions, there were no protests. That's what the rulebook says. So, again, these aren't JRW rules, these aren't Illinois rules, these aren't California rules, these are Little League rules," he said.

Henderson said if JRW made any mistakes – and they likely did – they will acknowledge them, but believe they were singled out for punishment, and held to standards other teams didn't have to meet.

"We're going to do everything that we can within the power that we have been given to make sure that these young men are treated fairly. So if the light is going to shine on them, it's going to shine on everybody else as well," Henderson said.

Little League International released a statement saying in part, "Little League takes all matters of eligibility seriously. All 152 teams participating in the 16 Little League Baseball Regional Tournaments in 2014 underwent the same eligibility verification process. This process takes place prior to the start of each level of play of Little League International Tournament, not before every game, which was mentioned."

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