Jackie Robinson West captured the nation’s attention in 2014, becoming the first team composed of all black players to win the U.S. title at the Little League World Series. After the team lost to South Korea in the International title game, the team became a sensation, with a parade in its Chicago home town, a visit to the White House to meet President Obama and the first lady, and a trip to San Francisco for the World Series.
But after allegations of cheating were levied by Janes, a coach in a suburban Chicago league, journalist Mark Konkol began investigating whether Jackie Robinson West conspired with local administrators to change the league’s boundaries in order to stack the team with ringers, some of whom attended school in suburban areas. After initially upholding Jackie Robinson West’s title, Little League International stripped the organization of its U.S. championship after new information about its actions emerged in February 2015. The organization claimed that only five members of the team lived within its established boundaries, a practice it described as fraudulent and alleging a cover-up.
The lawsuit — filed by team parents on behalf of their minor children — makes five claims:
— That Little League officials did not follow the proper procedure in stripping Jackie Robinson West of its title, robbing the team parents and their children their due-process rights.
— That both Jackie Robinson West and Little League officials orchestrated and/or concealed the ineligibility of the players in order to gain notoriety and earn hundreds of thousands of dollars.
— That ESPN and Smith defamed the players by accusing the parents of perpetrating a fraud against Little League. The lawsuit says Smith made the claims on an episode of ESPN’s “First Take.”
— That Little League, ESPN and Smith all portrayed the Jackie Robinson West parents in a false light based on their actions and comments.
— That all of the defendants inflicted emotional distress on the team’s players and parents by their actions.
“We have not seen the lawsuit so it would be inappropriate to comment,” and ESPN spokesman told The Post.
Thursday’s filing is the second lawsuit filed over the matter. In June 2014, the Jackie Robinson West organization sued Little League International, alleging that the governing body failed to follow its established procedures in making its decision to strip the team of its title. The team filed a motion to drop its lawsuit in August.