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Disgraced Jackie Robinson West Little League Team Hires Lawyer

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Members of the Jackie Robinson West Little League baseball team participate in a rally in Chicago celebrating the team's U.S. Little League Championship on Aug. 27, 2014.
Members of the Jackie Robinson West Little League baseball team participate in a rally in Chicago celebrating the team's U.S. Little League Championship on Aug. 27, 2014. Charles Rex Arbogast / AP

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A day after getting stripped of their national crown, officials from Chicago's Jackie Robinson West Little League team appeared Thursday with a newly hired lawyer who pledged to review Little League International's investigation to make sure it was done fairly.

"I want to make sure that whatever rules and regulations applied to Jackie Robinson West were applied to every other team," the lawyer, Victor Henderson, said at a news conference.

Henderson said he's also told the players, and team officials, that they should not give up their claim to the title just yet.

"They're still the champions unless we we found out it was a fair process," he said.

But that is really just a symbolic gesture: Little League International, which holds the Little League World Series and awarded the title, has already vacated all of the team's tournament wins and handed the championship to the runner-up, Mountain Ridge Little League of Las Vegas.

Jackie Robinson West, the first all-black team to win the national title, came under scrutiny not long after the tournament, when they returned to the South Side of Chicago as heroes and were later feted at the White House. An official from a district in the neighboring suburbs complained that Jackie Robinson West had reached into other districts for players.

Last month, Little League International found evidence that Jackie Robinson West's had expanded its boundaries to include territory that belonged to other districts, and falsified a boundary map submitted for the 2014 tournament. On Wednesday, the national organization invalidated Jackie Robinson West's wins, suspended their manager and removed their district administrator.

Some parents and community leaders said the decision was racially motivated. The suburban whistleblower said he'd received death threats. Henderson said the league was not charging racism, and urged the threats to stop.

But Henderson complained that the league learned of the disqualification from the media, and has yet to receive a formal written explanation. He said he is not contemplating filing a lawsuit — yet.

"We don’t know enough information yet to know why the league made its decision," he said.

IN-DEPTH

—Jon Schuppe

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