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Little League scapegoats

From an editorial Friday in the Washington Post:

As they were stripping the Jackie Robinson West team of its national championship, Little League International officials wanted everyone to know certain things, primarily about themselves. That they had no choice; that they cared deeply about the integrity of the program; that they feel “horribly.”

To be blunt, we don’t really care how they feel. The fact is they punished a group of children who did everything right, on and off the field – punished them for the sins of adults and an organization that was willfully oblivious.

Concluding that officials of the Chicago-area league had redrawn its boundaries, without consulting nearby leagues, in order to draw good players, Little League International stripped the team Wednesday of the U.S. title it won last August and disciplined some officials. There was no suggestion of wrongdoing by the players.

Jackie Robinson West was the first team of African American youth to win a national championship. Its 11- and 12-year-old players, some from struggling neighborhoods, not only cheered a city challenged by violence but charmed the country with their play and sportsmanship.

We have to question whether it was necessary to demean these boys in this way. Punishing children who played their hearts out is probably not the best way to attract new players – and certainly not the way to honor the game.