Even though Chicago’s Jackie Robinson West Little League team was stripped of their title last week for allegedly recruiting ineligible players, they’re still getting their championship rings. That’s thanks to Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who told reporters over the weekend that he still considers the team champs in the Windy City.
"These young men demonstrated tremendous character both on and off the field, and Chicago will honor them as the champions they are," Emanuel told reporters. "The memories they created will last a lifetime, and so will the championship rings they have earned."
But whether or not that title was actually earned has become one of the sports’ world’s biggest stories in recent weeks. The team fielded an all-black lineup with players from the South Side of Chicago, and their march through the Little League World Series was one of those feel-good stories you only see every once in a while. But a tip, allegedly from a salty opposing coach, led to an investigation that found the team had falsified its boundary map. The team and its supporters are now fighting to have their title reinstated.
To consider just how big of a deal this battle is, consider the storyline that captured the country’s attention back in August:
Much of the controversy has swirled around whether racism played a role in the increased scrutiny of the team’s makeup. At a press conference last week, Rev. Jesse Jackson asked reporters the question point blank: "Is this about boundaries or race?" He went on: "This decision’s untimely and inappropriate at this time. It should not take six months after a team has played a championship game to determine eligibility to play the game in the first place."