Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel has personally intervened with Little League International officials in a bid to have the decision to strip Chicago's Jackie Robinson West All-Stars of their 2014 national championship title reversed, the Chicago Sun-Times reports.
According to the paper, Emanuel made representations on the team's behalf in phone call Wednesday with Little League International President and CEO Stephen Keener.
“Every home run was real. Every great catch was real. The passion they brought from Chicago to Williamsport was real. And the character they showed on and off the field was real,” Emanuel reportedly told Keener during the call.
The Chicago mayor also urged the league to punish the adults who were running the team, rather than the children playing on it.
The Jackie Robinson West All-Stars were stripped of their 2014 title on Wednesday, after an investigation by Little League International found that officials with the team had gerrymandered a map, which effectively allowed them to put together a 'super-team' by appropriating players that should have played in other districts.
During the investigation, Jackie Robinson West's leaders attempted to meet with officials of three nearby leagues, "essentially asking them to give JRW that territory so they could legitimize" the map submitted to the league's governing body, Keener told the Chicago Tribune. “Those leagues refused,” he added.
Earlier Emanuel released a statement, cited by WGNTV, saying: “These remarkable boys brought our entire city together and reminded all Chicagoans how important it is to support our children. They created memories that will last a lifetime and nothing will take that away, and they showed the nation their character both on and off the field. The city remains united in its support of these great children and in our hearts, they will always be champions in Chicago.”
In addition to Emanuel's efforts, city leaders, parents and players from the team called on Little League officials to reverse the decision, saying the team did not deserve to be punished.
“We think that this punishment is too harsh,” Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr. told NBC5 Chicago. “If this were a case of someone who was over age, 16 years old, as have happened in some cases, it’s forfeiture.”
Little League International officials have yet to make a public response to the calls for the decision to be reversed. According to the New York Times, Little League International CEO Stephen Keener described the decision to strip the team of its title as “heartbreaking,” adding “What these players accomplished on the field ... is something the kids can be proud of, but it is unfortunate that the actions of adults have led to this outcome.”
After Jackie Robinson West's exclusion, Mountain Ridge Little League, of Las Vegas, have become the U.S. Little League champions for 2014, according to CNN.