CHICAGO — Parents of some of the Jackie Robinson West players whose national championship was stripped over residency violations joined their attorney today to talk about the lawsuit they filed.
There are basically three reasons for this lawsuit. JRW wants its title reinstated. The players, their parents and coaches want to clear their names and fix their reputations. And third, there is financial compensation, although their attorney says the amount has not been determined.
Thirteen families are showing a united front. Players and parents did not want to talk about their lawsuit, allowing their lawyer to speak for them.
Named as defendants in the suit filed in Cook County Circuit Court are Little League International and ESPN.
In the summer of 2014 Jackie Robinson West captivated the nation and united the city with its run. The champs returned from Williamsport, Pa., to a heroes’ welcome home — with a parade, a Millennium Park rally and a trip to the White House to meet President Obama.
When accusations first surfaced about residency violations and fake league boundary maps, Little League cleared the team. Months later it stripped JRW of its title upon further investigation, claiming only five players actually lived in league boundaries.
The lawsuit states Little League violated its own rules that a challenge must be made before the tournament ends.
It claims Little League had all the birth certificates, addresses and documents and did not say anything, knowing of a potential issue. It promoted the Cinderella story of the all-black South Side team and made money off it.
“None of this was communicated to any of the parents,” said James Karamanis, attorney for the JRW parents. “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.”
“The parents are basically seeking to address the mistreatment or misconceptions regarding them, and also how they feel their children were used in this process,” Karamanis continued.
ESPN and one of its personalities, Stephen A. Smith, are named in the lawsuit for statements made about the coaching staff. The coach for an opposing team, Chris Janes, is also named. He blew the whistle. The families claim he violated their privacy by tracing their license plate numbers to their addresses.