Chicago's Jackie Robinson West Little League team on Wednesday morning was stripped of its Little League World Series national championship title after officials determined the South Side team added top suburban players in violation of residency rules.
The revocation of Jackie Robinson West's title means the national title would be handed to the Mountain Ridge Little League team of Las Vegas, Nevada.
"This is a heartbreaking decision," Little League International President and CEO Stephen D. Keener said in a statement. "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."
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In addition, team manager Darold Butler was suspended from Little League activity and Illinois District 4 Administrator Michael Kelly was removed from his position, Little League International spokesman Brian McClintock said in a statement.
News of the vacated title was first reported by ESPN's SportsCenter.
"He's pretty distraught this morning," said Carlton Hondras, the father of outfielder Tre Hondras. "It hurts. He's pretty emotional about it. I just told him to keep his head up and have a good day at school."
McClintock said an investigation revealed that Butler and Kelly knowingly violated rules by using a falsified boundary map for their 2014 tournament and used players who didn't qualify because they lived outside the team's actual boundaries.
Jackie Robinson West officials have previously denied the team violated any residency rules or recruited outside players.
Reached Wednesday evening after a gathering with players and parents at a church on Chicago's South Side, Butler defended his team.
"The boys did what they were supposed to do," he said. "Everybody did what they were supposed to do. I'm still a proud guy. I'm still a proud coach. I love them."
Late last year, the organization said it was confident that there were no violations of residency regulations after investigating allegations made by an official from a suburban Chicago league that some of Jackie Robinson West's players live in suburbs with already-established Little League teams. It said it would the investigation if necessary.
But citing "new information," Little League International officials met Tuesday to discuss if the allegations had any merit and what should be done about them. McClintock on Tuesday didn't elaborate on what prompted further review of the allegations that were first reported by DNAinfo.com.
Chicago won the U.S. title by beating a Las Vegas team from Mountain Ridge Little League 7-5.
While he agreed the Jackie Robinson West team should lose its title if the team broke the rules, the Las Vegas coach, Ashton Cave, said that rather than award his team the championship, Little League International could send a more powerful and lasting message by simply leaving the space blank where the championship team is listed.
The stirring run to the Little League World Series by the all-black team captured national attention and united Chicago, which remains one of the nation's most segregated cities. The Cubs watched JRW play during a rain delay and cheered them on while Mayor Rahm Emanuel organized all-city watch parties. The Rev. Jesse Jackson said his Rainbow/PUSH Coalition would take the boys to Disney World.
After falling to South Korea in the world championship game, Jackie Robinson West was feted with a parade and a visit to the major league World Series and the White House, where they met President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama.