The Fate of the Chicago Little League Team Is About Baseball Being Siphoned Out of Urban Communities

Members of the Jackie Robinson West Little League Team are joined by members of the Chicago White Sox for a team photo in advance of being honored before the Chicago White Sox-Detroit Tigers game at U.S. Cellular Field Aug. 30, 2014, in Chicago. 
Jeffrey Phelps/Getty Images

Writers Link Circumstances to Conditions on South Side

The sad story of Chicago's Jackie Robinson West Little League team, stripped of its hard-fought 2014 U.S. championship title, is starting to depart from the pat story line of hard-working young black teammates punished for the deeds of the rule-breaking adults in charge of them.


The team gave up its championship title Wednesday after Little League Baseball determined that both the team and its district 'knowingly violated' league rules by recruiting players who did not live within the team’s geographical boundaries," as Maxwell Strachan reported last week for the Huffington Post.

Some writers are introducing a context that includes such factors as gentrification and Chicago's recent school closings that disproportionately affected black children.


"The fact that the adults in charge of JRW felt the need to breach this rule perhaps has something to do with the fact that today's urban landscape supports baseball about as well as concrete makes proper soil for orchids," Dave Zirin wrote last week for The Nation.

"A plurality of Major Leaguers is made up of people from either the US suburbs or the baseball factories of the Dominican Republic.


"Many of the few African-American players on Major League rosters actually come from the suburbs. This is because twenty-first-century neoliberal cities have gentrified urban black baseball to death.

"Boys and Girls Clubs have become bistros. Baseball fields are condos and in many cities, Little League is non-existent. The public funds for the infrastructure that baseball demands simply do not exist, but the land required for diamonds are the crown jewels of urban real estate. That's what made JRW such a profound anomaly. In Chicago particularly, which under Mayor Rahm Emanuel has seen school closures and brutal cuts to physical education programs, their success made people believe that — with apologies to Tupac — flowers could in fact grow in concrete. . . ."


Columnist Mary Mitchell wrote Friday in the Chicago Sun-Times, "Now that this can of worms has been opened, we can't ignore what's inside.

"Frankly, the very idea of a 'boundary' is enough to anger blacks who grew up in Chicago.


"Boundaries were set up to protect the status quo and to impede the inroads black people were making in previously all-white neighborhoods.

"Boundaries ensured little white children didn’t have to go to school with little black children. And boundaries were put in place to make sure middle-class whites didn't have to live next door to poor blacks. . . ."


Mitchell also wrote, "After all, the 2010 U.S. Census showed Chicago had 181,000 fewer African-Americans living in its neighborhoods.

"A lot of those blacks moved to the suburbs because they wanted their children to go to better schools and to live in safer communities.


"Many of these relocated families still belong to the same churches and still support the same programs they did when they lived in Chicago.

"For teams like Jackie Robinson West to stand a chance of winning on a national level, officials must be able to draw from a wider pool.


"Finally, the racial divide in Chicago seemed a thing of the past when the entire city came together to cheer on Jackie Robinson West.

"Now it seems that the divide is bigger than ever. . . "

In the Bleacher Report, George Castle wrote Friday of the national acclaim the team has received, and also saw hypocrisy.


"Little League also enjoyed a larger national profile, with JRW being welcomed enthusiastically by President Obama," Castle wrote. Little League International chief Stephen Keener, "whose organization spent $18,000 to fly the team and coaches to Washington, D.C., for three days, attended a reception in the Oval Office a couple of weeks after Obama asked to meet the club at a political rally at Chicago State University.

"Little League championship teams normally are not received in the Oval Office itself. But Obama has an interesting backstory with JRW. While first running for the Illinois Senate in 2004, he served as grand marshal of JRW's then-annual season-kickoff parade on the South Side. Emil Jones, who helped found JRW in 1971, also served as Obama's political mentor in the Illinois Senate two decades ago.


"The access Obama provided JRW to his inner sanctum could not have reflected more positively on Little League International.

" 'He opened up a door to his private study,' Keener said in a recent interview before the controversy broke. 'Michelle Obama leaned over to me and a member of our board and said, "Oh, boy, not many people get to go in there.' He took those kids into his private study and showed a photo of himself withNelson Mandela, and explained the significance of Mandela and what he meant to African-Americans. . . ."


Castle also wrote, "This situation seems headed for even more controversy for the governing body if — and likely when — other leagues' transgressions are brought to light.

"Recently, Chicago ABC affiliate WLS-TV interviewed Renee Cannon-Young. She said her son, Jacoby, was recruited to play in southwest suburban Evergreen Park's Little League, an outfit outside of the district in which they live — a transgression Keener's staff and Evergreen's Janes said JRW was guilty of committing."


"Janes" is Chris Janes, vice president of nearby Evergreen Park Athletic Association, whom JRW beat 45-2 earlier in the season.

" 'Hypocrisy' is an accusation being frequently levied at all parties involved. . . ."


Arthur L. Caplan, Lee H. Igel and Tony Ponturo, Forbes: When The Punishment Fits A Crime: The Sad Predicament Of Jackie Robinson West 

Sonya Eskridge, Chicago Defender: SMH: Jackie Robinson West Stripped of Little League World Series Title 


Christopher L. Gasper, Boston Globe: Adults failed Jackie Robinson West Little Leaguers 

Daniel Kay Hertz, Deadspin: No, The Jackie Robinson West Story Is Not About Gentrification 


Dan McGrath, Chicago Sun-Times: Jackie Robinson West story a true buzzkill 

Mary Mitchell, Chicago Sun-Times: Baseball ruling unfairly penalizes kids 

Mary Mitchell, Chicago Sun-Times: Jackie Robinson West will always remain the city's champs 


Benjamin Mullin, Poynter Institute: How a local news site busted open Chicago's biggest sports story this year 

Chuck Sudo, Chicagoist: Jackie Robinson West Players Heckled At Friday's Blackhawks Game 


James Warren, Daily News, New York: The media's big-league outrage: From Brian Williams to Little League, we choose strange subjects to obsess over 

Dave Zirin, Deadspin: Jackie Robinson West Is A Lens On What's Happening On The South Side


Ta-Nehisi Coates Wins Polk Award for Reparations Story

"Ta-Nehisi Coates received the George K. Polk award for commentary for 'The Case for Reparations,' an essay in The Atlantic attributing the gap in wealth and opportunity between black and white Americans to a 'fundamental' force within American society," Anemona Hartocollis reported Sunday for the New York Times.


John Darnton, curator of the awards, "said the Polk panel does not give commentary awards every year, but did so in this instance because Mr. Coates 'drives home his arguments very, very forcefully.' "

In addition, "Adam Nossiter, Norimitsu Onishi, Ben Solomon, Sheri Fink, Helene Cooper and Daniel Berehulak of The New York Times won the health reporting award, for risking 'their own health and safety to provide American readers with their earliest and most reliable coverage' of the Ebola epidemic in West Africa," the announcement said.


Also, "The award for television reporting went to Marisa Venegas and Solly Granatstein, executive producers, and John Carlos Frey, correspondent, for a joint production by the Investigative Fund, the Weather Channel, Telemundo and Efran Films titled 'Muriendo por Cruzar (Dying to Cross),' (video) on the plight of migrants in the Texas desert.

"Rukmini Callimachi of The New York Times received the prize for international reporting for her account of how European nations secretly paid millions of dollars to ransom hostages held by the Islamic State, a business model perfected by Al Qaeda. . . ."


"Honored to receive a Polk award," Coates wrote on Twitter Monday to announce the award, Betsy Rothstein reported Monday for the Daily Caller. "Is it weird to dedicate awards to people? Oh well. This one is so much for @carr2n," a reference to David Carr, who edited Coates when Carr was editor of the Washington City Paper and Coates was a young writer in 1996. Carr died Thursday at 58.

Ta-Nehisi Coates, the Atlantic: The Case for Reparations (June 2014)

Carr Died of Complications From Lung Cancer, Autopsy Says

"David Carr, the New York Times media columnist who died unexpectedly Thursday night, had lung cancer, and died of complications from the disease, according to the results of an autopsy released Saturday evening," Daniel E. Slotnik reported for the New York Times.


"Mr. Carr, 58, was a survivor of Hodgkin's lymphoma, a cancer of the lymphatic system, and described his experiences as a cancer patient in his 2008 memoir, 'The Night of the Gun.' . . ."

Slotnik also reported, "Mr. Carr's memoir, which recounted his drug addiction with unblinking honesty and harrowing detail and made a publishing splash when it was released, had risen to number nine on Amazon's best-seller list by Saturday afternoon. The New York Post reported that Simon & Schuster, which published the memoir, was printing 10,000 new copies of the book to meet demand.


"A memorial in the Times newsroom at 3 p.m. Friday drew a crowd rivaling that for the annual announcement of the Pulitzer Prize winners. A wake for Mr. Carr is planned for Monday evening; his funeral will be held Tuesday morning."

"With David Carr," New York Times: David Carr's Last Word on Journalism, Aimed at Students


Bill Carter, Hollywood Reporter: Bill Carter Pens Tribute to David Carr: "Newspaper Man With Unbridled Enthusiasm" 

Christopher B. Daly blog: David Carr, Professor

Lloyd Grove, Daily Beast: David Carr’s Star-Studded Wake (Feb. 17)

Bringing the New Yorker Icon Into the 21st Century

"When the magazine's editor, David Remnick, asked me months ago to think of ways to celebrate our ninetieth anniversary, I knew at least where to start: with the cover of the very first issue, from February of 1925, by the art editor Rea Irvin," Françoise Mouly, the current art editor of the New Yorker magazine, wrote Monday.


"That image, of a 'starchy-looking gent with the beaver hat and the monocle,' so effectively established the magazine's tone that it was published, nearly unchanged, every February until 1994.

"Later dubbed Eustace Tilley, the magazine's presiding dandy has since been parodied, subverted, or deconstructed on most of our anniversary covers. Contributions by our artists — and by readers participating in Eustace Tilley contests — have included comic-strip Tilleys, dog Tilleys, tattooed Tilleys, emoji Tilleys, and twerking Tilleys.


"To celebrate the fact that we're entering our tenth decade, we turned, as we do every week, to our artists for ideas, and this time we decided to publish more than one.

"We picked nine covers for our ninety years, selecting images that reflect the talent and diversity of our contributors and the range of artistic media they use: oil painting for Kadir Nelson and Anita Kunz; pen and ink with watercolor for Roz Chast, Barry Blitt, and Istvan Banyai; oil pastel for Lorenzo Mattotti; collage for Peter Mendelsund; and digital art for Christoph Niemann. Some of these artists are regulars — this is Barry Blitt's eighty-eighth New Yorker cover and Lorenzo Mattotti's thirtieth.


"Others are newcomers. Each brings Eustace Tilley squarely into the twenty-first century, and proves that art is as alive on the cover of the magazine today as it was in 1925."

Ratings Fall for "NBC Nightly News" After Williams Exit

"While the media continues to autopsy Brian Williams' career — new questions about claims he flew into Baghdad with Seal Team 6, was at the Brandenburg Gate the night the Berlin Wall came down, etc — viewers have been weighing in on NBC’' suspension of Williams," Lisa de Moraes reported Friday for Deadline Hollywood.


"They don't like it.

"NBC Nightly News took a double-digit tumble in its first broadcast with Brian Williams name officially stripped from the broadcast, a.k.a Wednesday, according to fast affiliate time period stats issued by Nielsen. . . ."


Stacey Patton, What's the Harm in a Little White Liar?

Manuel Roig-Franzia, Scott Higham and Amy Brittain, Washington Post: Storytelling ability connected Brian Williams with viewers but also led to his downfall


Studies Show We're Influenced by Movie "Facts" That Aren't

"This year's Oscar nominees for best picture include four films based on true stories: 'American Sniper' (about the sharpshooter Chris Kyle), 'The Imitation Game' (about the British mathematician Alan Turing), 'Selma' (about the passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965) and 'The Theory of Everything' (about the physicist Stephen Hawking)," Jeffrey M. Zacks, a professor of psychology and radiology at Washington University in St. Louis, wrote for the SundayReview section of the New York Times.


"Each film has been criticized for factual inaccuracy. Doesn't 'Selma' ignore Lyndon B. Johnson's dedication to black voting rights? Doesn't 'The Imitation Game' misrepresent the nature of Turing's work, just as 'The Theory of Everything' does Mr. Hawking’s? Doesn’t 'American Sniper' sanitize the military conflicts it purports to depict?

"You might think: Does it really matter? Can't we keep the film world separate from the real world?


"Unfortunately, the answer is no. Studies show that if you watch a film — even one concerning historical events about which you are informed — your beliefs may be reshaped by 'facts' that are not factual.

"In one study, published in the journal Psychological Science in 2009, a team of researchers had college students read historical essays and then watch clips from historical movies containing information that was inaccurate and inconsistent with the essays. Despite being warned that the movies might contain factual distortions, the students produced about a third of the fake facts from the movies on a subsequent test. . . ."


Bill Bowden, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette: Arkansan gets call: He's portrayed in civil-rights movie Selma

Editorial, Washington Informer: Selma Past and Present (Jan. 21)

Mark Harris, Grantland: How 'Selma' Got Smeared (Jan. 28)

Kevin Lincoln, Grantland: Q&A: 'Selma’'DP Bradford Young on the LBJ Controversy, Being a Black Cinematographer, and 'A Most Violent Year' (Feb. 3)


Askia Muhammad, Washington Informer: 'Selma,' Lyndon Johnson and Voting Rights (Jan. 21)

James Reston, Jr., Newsweek: Martin Luther King Jr.'s Three Southern Villains

Barbara Sostaita, Latino Rebels: An Immigrant's Take on SELMA (Feb. 4)

We're Already Having National Conversation on Race

"In our collective imaginations, we tend to conceive of the constantly called-for 'national conversation on race' as having the formality of some grand conclave of consciousness — an American Truth and Reconciliation equivalent, a spiritual spectacle in which sins are confessed and blame taken and burdens lifted," Charles M. Blow wrote Monday for the New York Times.


"This may be ideal, but it is also exceedingly unlikely in this country, particularly in this political environment. There will be no great atoning. Reparations will not be paid. There will no sprawling absolution.

"Yet we can still have a productive conversation. Indeed, I would argue that we are in the midst of a national conversation about race at this very moment. Its significance isn't drawn from structure but from the freedom of its form.


"Every discussion over a backyard fence or a cup of coffee is part of that conversation. It is the very continuity of its casualness that bolsters its profundity.

"We need to stop calling for the conversation and realize that we are already having it.


"Last week the F.B.I. director, James Comey, added his voice to that conversation, particularly as it relates to the relationship between law enforcement and communities of color. There were portions I found particularly potent coming from a man in his position.

"He gave a list of 'hard truths,' the first of which was an admission that the history of law enforcement in this country was not only part of the architecture of oppression but also a brutal tool of that system. As Comey put it, 'One reason we cannot forget our law enforcement legacy is that the people we serve and protect cannot forget it, either.'


"His second hard truth acknowledged the existence of unconscious racial bias 'in our white-majority culture' and how that influences policing.

"Third, he acknowledged that people in law enforcement can develop 'different flavors of cynicism' that can be 'lazy mental shortcuts,' resulting in more pronounced racial profiling. . . ."


In another development, the continuing presence throughout the South of structures named after avowed racists came up in a discussion Sunday on CBS-TV's "Face the Nation."

Rather than remove the name of Edmund Pettus, a Confederate general, U.S. senator and leader of Alabama's Ku Klux Klan, from the name of Selma, Ala.'s Edmund Pettus Bridge, site of the famed 1965 voting rights march, a plaque should be erected there and on similar sites explaining who these namesakes were, said Sherrilyn Ifill, president and director- counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund.


Jeffrey Goldberg, national correspondent for the Atlantic, said, "it is remarkable that we're having a debate in this city about the name of the Washington football team. But when you go to the South and you find that on bridges and highways you have the names still of grand dragons of the Ku Klux Klan, that's a remarkable thing. I find that remarkable."

Ifill replied, "I mean I think that's part of like the history of this country needs to be kind of explained in a way, you know, there are all of these places we have these encounters. You saw the New York Times do this big story about lynching. Where these things happened, we need these kind of notices so we understand what happened in that space. . . ."


C-SPAN: James Comey Full Speech (video)

Erica Armstrong Dunbar, New York Times: George Washington, Slave Catcher

Editorial, New York Times: Lynching as Racial Terrorism

Tim Giago, Racism continues to be tolerated in South Dakota

Clarence Lusane, Missing from Presidents' Day: The People They Enslaved (Feb. 12, 2014)


Tony Norman, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: Alabama judge smacks of past bigots 

Campbell Robertson, New York Times: History of Lynchings in the South Documents Nearly 4,000 Names (Feb. 10)


Adam Salter, That awkward moment when I realized my white "liberal" friends were racists

Cedric Sunray, Indian Country Today Media Network: Are Louisiana Tribes Turning a Blind Eye to Racism? 


Southern Chinese Lion Dancing for the New Year

"Southern Chinese lion dancing comes from an ancient tale," Andrew Boryga wrote Friday for the New York Times "Lens" blog. "Terrorized by a mythical monster, a horde of villagers descended from the mountains and huddled under an enormous monster of their own in an attempt to repel the beast. Year after year, to the accompaniment of firecracker bursts and drums, the ritual is repeated as protection against evil spirits. At least that's one version.


" 'Everyone tells it differently,' said Jason Lam.

"For him, lion dancing was an easy transition from martial arts, and from middle school to college. He was a regular practitioner of the quick-footed routine performed under heavy and intricate costumes. Like most lion dancers, he took to the stage during anniversaries, birthdays, store openings and parades for celebrations like the Chinese New Year, Feb. 19 this year.


"While studying at the International Center of Photography last year, Mr. Lam decided to step outside the lion costume to view the tradition he said serves as a hinge between his Asian ancestry and American upbringing. . . ."

"SNL40" Sets Record, but How Many Latinos?

"It's hard to capture people's attention for three-and-a-half hours (four if you include the red carpet), but Saturday Night Live's 40th Anniversary Special did just that, and it easily broke two Nielsen Twitter TV Ratings records," Adam Flomenbaum reported Monday for LostRemote.


However, Félix Sánchez, chairman and co-founder of the National Hispanic Foundation for the Arts, noted Sunday on the Latino Rebels blog that "SNL has never hired a Latina cast member, yet they have brown-faced actors to play Latinas in skits. Only two Latinos have ever been cast on the show: Horatio Sanz and Fred Armisen, and the show's recent Latino-themed skits have only highlighted the problems." On Twitter, some guessed how long it would be before a Latino appeared.

In a scripted portion of the show, Ellen Cleghorne, one of only a handful of black female SNL alums, asked Jerry Seinfeld, "So, how many black women were on the Seinfeld show?" Seinfeld replied, "Good point, Ellen, we did not do all we could to cure society's ills, you are correct. Uh, mea culpa. [He turns away.] Other questions?," Ross Miller reported Monday for


Emil Guillermo, Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund: "Saturday Night Live" TV ad parody on Asian American Doll is downright racist (Dec. 22)

Short Takes

"Bobby Brown in a statement today slammed members of his family who have been providing updates to the media about his daughter, Bobbi Kristina, without knowledge of her condition," Janelle Griffith reported Saturday for NJ Advance Media for " 'At this time it is requested that the media cease speaking with unauthorized members of the family,' reads a statement from Brown's attorney. . . . None of them have firsthand knowledge of Bobbi Kristina's treatment and the medical staff at Emory University Hospital has not communicated with them.' . . ."


"Telemundo news correspondent Carlos Botifoll is leaving the network after a 22-year run based out of the Los Angeles bureau," Veronica Villafañe reported Friday for her Media Moves site. " 'I have been in the same job, same bureau, doing the same thing for 22 years. Even though I've done things that interest me, I felt it was time for a change, to try something new,' Carlos tells Media Moves. . . ."

"Reportage [broadcast] this week by the Swiss national television shows the case of Azeri journalist and human rights defender Emin Huseynov, secretly hidden in the Swiss Embassy in Baku (Azerbaijan) since last August due to a wave of repression in the country," the International Federation of Journalists reported on Monday.


"Ecuador's media regulator on Friday ordered the daily newspaper El Universo to issue a public apology over a political cartoon satirising a lawmaker from President Rafael Correa's party," the International Press Institute reported on Friday. "In a statement, the Superintendent of Information and Communication (Supercom) said the cartoon amounted to 'socio-economic discrimination' against the Afro-Ecuadorian community and therefore violated Ecuador's Communications Law. . . ."

"Christopher Vambo had been accused by Catholic church officials and others of being responsible for the 1992 murder of five American nuns," T. Christian Miller reported Friday for ProPublica. "Prince Johnson had overseen the torture and death of Samuel Doe, the former president of Liberia. Neither man was ever charged or otherwise held responsible. Today, Johnson is a legislator in Liberia and Vambo is a security guard for one of the country's largest communications firms. Frontline and ProPublica found both men and talked with them about their pasts and the elusive question of justice in Liberia. . . ."


The International Press Institute said Monday it was calling on Colombian authorities "to immediately open an investigation into the murder of radio journalist Luis Peralta Cuéllar. Peralta was shot various times while leaving the offices of his radio station, Linda Stereo 95.1, on Saturday, Feb. 14, in the department of Caquetá. According to the Press Freedom Foundation (FLIP), a Colombian NGO, Peralta, 63, told a colleague that he had received death threats but had not believed them to be significant and did not alert authorities. . . ."

"Libertito 'Bert' Pelayo, 78, of Jamaica Estates, the founder of a weekly Filipino newspaper, the Filipino Reporter, died after a long illness on Feb. 3," Liz Rhoades reported Thursday for the Queens (N.Y.) Chronicle. "Born in the Philippines, he was a graduate of the Far Eastern University in Manila. He first worked as a reporter for the Manila Times and later was a correspondent in South Vietnam during the Vietnam War. . . ."

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