Jackie Robinson West was the first all-Black team to win the Little League U.S. Championship. They did so at a time when the lives of Black people, young, Black men in particular, were being publicly disrespected and devalued. And they did so coming from a city that’s called Chiraq because of Black youth violence.
Cheating should not be allowed by anybody, for any reason, and anybody caught breaking the rules should be subject to the consequences of their actions.
A lot of people and organizations in the world, including Little League, cheat and get away with it. Even when known, a lot of people either turn a blind eye or work to correct the wrongdoing before the public is aware of it in order to protect the ‘integrity’ of a particular situation.
The person behind the challenge that eventually led to JRW’s disqualification, Evergreen Park Athletic Association vice president Chris Janes, now finds himself and his organization defending themselves against rule bending claims being levied against them. A south Chicago mother claims that Evergreen Park coaches fudged the address of her child and at least one other so that they would be eligible to play on Evergreen Park’s team.
Little League International did it’s best to make this thing go away. When the inquiries first came about, the organization claimed to have investigated the matter and found no wrongdoing. Their hope, we assume, is that the organization would be able to publicly close this case, keep this feel-good moment that American corporations die for intact, reap the financial rewards and good will generated by the summer of Black youth’s return to baseball (who could forget about Mo’ne Davis giving new meaning to the phrase ‘throw like a girl’), and move on to dealing internally with a practice that has long been abused by organizations all over the world.
But Chris Janes wouldn’t let it go. And once he got a Chicago media entity on his side, they wouldn’t let it go. And once the news spread to the Las Vegas team that Jackie Robinson West defeated in the U.S. Little League Championship game, they wouldn’t let it go. And despite the obvious attempts of both the U.S. and International Little League to do just that, let it go, when the proof of out of district residency continued to find its way into the media and in the minds of others who weren’t necessarily happy with JRW’s victory in the first place, the brewing firestorm got so large that Little League had to do something. If not, they risked ruining their reputation and legitimacy as a league.
I get it.
But there’s more to the story. And it’s oh, so simple, yet, oh, so complex.
First off, Jackie Robinson West beat the Evergreen Park baseball team this summer 42 to 3 … in four innings. So it’s safe to say that the coach, the players, and the families of the players may have been just a little bit embarrassed by that fact.
Secondly, Evergreen Park is a community that historically has had issues with race. Black drivers stopped for tickets in the neighborhood regularly claim that racial profiling is the reason behind their stop. The police district is notorious for ticketing and towing cars from stores overwhelmingly supported by Black consumers even when said cars are parked in store parking lots. And when you take into account the racial tension that has historically existed between Chicago’s Irish and Black communities, you start to wonder if Evergreen Park’s inquiry was just a wee-bit racially motivated.
But when you find out that Chris Janes, the instigator of all this, is a White man married to a Black wife with, presumably, interracial children, the issue is no longer so black and white.
Or is it?
Understanding the role of White supremacy and how it impacts even our subconscious thoughts is something many of us are wont to do. Even when you think everything is above board and fair, oftentimes the subtle messages reinforced by American culture will creep in to make what’s believed to be a righteous act wack from the get-go.
Black folks have always understood that we have to be twice as good at anything we do when in competition with White folks. The rules that apply to us don’t apply to them. We just accept it as fact. Now … what’s wrong with that?