The Jackie Robinson West All Stars were the darlings of baseball in 2014 after the Chicago-based team stormed through the Little League World Series to score the U.S. championship title. But earlier this year, Little League International stripped the team of the title, claiming that boundary regulations had been violated because suburban kids were playing on the South Side team.
On Wednesday an attorney for the Jackie Robinson West All Stars announced that the team is filling a lawsuit against Little League International for improperly retracting the title and failing to show its rationale for its decision, according to the Associated Press.
Victor Henderson, the team's attorney, said he believes that the team had been subjected to unfair scrutiny and is demanding that Little League International share its methodology for investigating the team.
"Do I think race is at play?" Victor Henderson asked during a press conference as the team's players stood behind him, along with parents and coaches, AP reports. "Yes, I do think that it's at play at some level.
"Do I think that's the only reason? No, I do not," Henderson continued.
Henderson said that the parents and coaches of the Jackie Robinson West All Stars hired him to conduct an investigation of the Little League International's process, but he has been "stonewalled" by the organization, according to AP.
"I can't tell you if Little League International looked at all the paperwork and all the paperwork of other teams … because they haven't talked to me," he told AP. "We contacted [the] Little League and said if there's information on these children, on these parents, you've received, please share it with us. The answer was no."
Little League International officials declined to comment to AP on the complaint, noting that they had not reviewed the lawsuit. An official did say all "participating teams in Little League undergo the same eligibility verification process, and the governing body can impose penalties it deems appropriate."
Henderson told AP that the Jackie Robinson West All Stars did have ineligible players on the team, but not in an attempt to skirt the rules. Henderson claimed that new boundary guidelines had created confusion about ineligible areas, and as a result "some mistakes" had been made.
According to AP, Henderson did not address "Little League International's claim that Jackie Robinson West officials did not only change the boundaries but also scrambled to persuade surrounding leagues to go along with what they had done."
For their part, the players still aren't sure why they had to forfeit their championship title.
"They said we cheated," player DJ Butler told ABC 7. "We didn't cheat. They cheated us."
"We didn't do anything wrong," player Trey Hondras told the news station. "We just played the game and did what we were supposed to do."