An Evergreen Park Little League baseball coach who was the first to formally accuse the 2014 Jackie Robinson West
Little League team of cheating has sued the national Little League baseball
organization, claiming the youth baseball organization intentionally attempted
to sweep his accusations against the Little League club from Chicago’s South
Side under the rug to protect the positive publicity it had enjoyed in the wake
of the team’s historic U.S. title run.
On Sept. 19, Chris Janes filed suit in Chicago federal court
against Little League Baseball, demanding the Williamsport, Pa.-based
youth sports organization pay him at least $75,000 for their alleged
mistreatment of him in late 2014.
In August 2014, the youth baseball club known as Jackie
Robinson West garnered glowing headlines and fame across the U.S., as the team,
purportedly composed of African-Americans from Chicago’s South Side, stormed
through the Little League World Series to capture the U.S. title and the right
to play in the LLWS title game.
Following the LLWS, the JRW squad was celebrated in a number
of public gatherings and ceremonies, including at Millennium Park and at the
White House. Some of the celebrations, however, also honored individual
In his lawsuit, Janes said he first noticed a potential
problem, during the LLWS, when one of the JRW players was honored in a suburban
community as a “hometown hero.”
However, according to Little League rules, no players from
the suburbs were allowed to play on the JRW team, Janes’ lawsuit said.
“As publicity increased, so did the number of suburban
communities claiming that JRW players were from their areas,” the complaint
said. “Plaintiff Janes believed that there was a reasonable basis to suspect
that JRW violated the Little League rules on residency.”
According to the lawsuit, Janes then investigated the
residency of JRW’s players and “discovered irregularities.”
The lawsuit said Janes reported those issues to Little
League Baseball, and followed up with a Little League representative after the
LLWS. That representative told Janes Little League Baseball “would not be
taking any action in violation of (Little League Baseball’s) own rules.”
Janes said he then publicly raised the issues with a local news
However, in response, Janes said Little League Baseball “decided
to engage in an attempt to cover-up the cheating and harm” Janes, declaring in
December 2014 his claims “had no merit.” Janes said he has since been subjected
to “threats of violence, death and accusations of racism as a result of the
Ultimately, Little League Baseball “in the face of mounting
publicity that proved that Plaintiff Janes’ claims were valid,” found JRW had
violated its rules, and the club had allegedly “falsified a boundary map to
place players on their team ‘who did not qualify to play.’”
Janes said Little League Baseball “engaged in extreme and
outrageous behavior when it engaged in a cover-up of JRW cheating and attempted
to discredit the allegations,” the lawsuit said.
Janes said he “has suffered depression, despair, anxiety,
humiliation, loss of weight, loss of sleep, loss of consortium and was
extremely fearful for his life, safety, health and welfare and the life,
safety, health and welfare of his wife and children,” as a result of the
alleged cover-up by Little League Baseball.
His complaint included two counts of infliction of emotional
Janes is represented in the action by attorneys with the
firm of Langone, Batson & Lavery, of Chicago.
Janes’ lawsuit arrives in court as JRW parents and others
associated with the youth baseball club have sued Little League, ESPN and
sports television commentator Stephen A. Smith, asking the court to declare
Little League, ESPN and Smith wrongly accused them of cheating and disparaged
them in the press.
That case remains pending in Cook County Circuit Court.