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Jackie Robinson West Team Got Screwed by Little League International

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Uncle Luke, the man whose booty-shaking madness made the U.S. Supreme Court stand up for free speech, gets as nasty as he wants to be for Miami New Times. This week, Luke goes to bat for Jackie Robinson West.

Little League International officials are wrong to strip Chicago's Jackie Robinson West team of its U.S. championship and all of its wins from 2014. Last week, the all-black team of 11- and 12-year-old boys was punished for the actions of the adults who tried to game the system. The players had no role in the cheating, but they are the ones paying the price. That's not fair.

Even Little League International CEO Stephen Keener acknowledged the kids had nothing to do with the scandal. At a news conference, Keener said, "What these players accomplished on the field, and the memories and lessons they have learned during the Little League World Series tournament, is something the kids can be proud of, but it is unfortunate that the actions of adults have led to this outcome."

According to Keener, Little League International's investigation revealed the adults running Jackie Robinson West used a falsified boundary map when they met with neighboring districts to claim players. It's against the rules to recruit players from outside a team's geographical boundaries. There is no evidence the boys were complicit in the scheme.

It's a chronic problem that goes back years. People forget that Heat co-captain Udonis Haslem's Miami Senior High's storied 1998 team basketball team, coached by Shakey Rodriguez, was stripped of its state championship after a New Times investigation exposed that Haslem and others lived outside the school's boundaries.

These days, deep-pocketed private schools like Virginia's Oak Hill Academy poach talented basketball players from other states to field superteams that annually compete for national titles. Rajon Rondo, Carmelo Anthony, and Ty Lawson are some of the current NBA stars who graduated from Oak Hill even though they lived in Kentucky, New York, and Maryland, respectively, before attending the academy.

In high-school football, private schools like St. Thomas Aquinas and Christopher Columbus can recruit inner-city kids who live far from campus by offering scholarships.

The hypocrisy here must stop. There should be recruiting rules that apply to everyone in both private and public schools that limit the number of players from far away who can take the field. And teams shouldn't necessarily be stripped of their titles when recruiting rules are broken.

Kids shouldn't suffer for the sins of their elders. Ban the parents and coaches, but leave the players alone. After cheating in the '90s, Shakey Rodriguez went on to break rules at Michael Krop High just a few years ago. That's the problem.

The fact is Little League International officials are hypocrites because every team in the league that makes it to the World Series has players who don't live within the boundaries of the club they play for. Talented players go live with one of the coaches or a friend of a program under the premise that they are the players' guardian. Usually, the excuse is the guardian is giving the kid a better opportunity to make it to college.

It's unfair, and it has to stop.

Tune in to Luke on The Andy Slater Show every Tuesday from 2 to 5 p.m. on Miami's Sports Animal 940 AM.

Follow Luke on Twitter: @unclelukereal1 and @unclelukesempir.


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