Taney releases statement after Chicago little league team stripped of U.S. championship

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Representatives of Philadelphia's Taney Dragons, the little league team that captivated the city last summer, released a statement after the U.S. championship team, Chicago's Jackie Robinson West, was stripped of its title on Wednesday.

The Chicago-based little league team eliminated Philadelphia's Taney Dragons during the 2014 tournament.

The following statement was posted on the team's website:

Over the course of the Little League World Series, Taney Little League players, along with so many of the players from the other 14 teams, developed a great and lasting friendship with the Jackie Robinson West kids. The camaraderie that formed over the course of the tournament among all of the teams was, and continues to be, the most memorable outcome of the entire LLWS experience.

The decision by Little League International will in no way affect the level of respect that we have for the JRW players. On the field, they competed with discipline and class, and played the game the right way. Off the field, they carried themselves as gentleman and represented their city and families well. They should be proud of their accomplishments.

We thank Little League for the incredible lessons, friendships, and lifelong memories that our players gained from the LLWS experience.

This came after Little League International stripped Jackie Robinson West of the title after an investigation revealed it had falsified boundaries to field ineligible players.

The stunning announcement came months after the all-black team, whose ages ranged from 11 to 13 years, captured the attention of the country and the hearts of its hometown. The baseball organization said it also found that after the league had changed the boundaries, some team officials went to surrounding leagues to convince them to go along with what they'd done.

The Jackie Robinson West team, the first all-African-American team to win the championship, must vacate wins from the 2014 Little League Baseball International Tournament -- including its Great Lakes Regional and United States championships.

The team has been suspended from Little League tournament privileges until new leadership is found. The team's manager, Darold Butler, is also suspended, and an administrator from the district that includes Jackie Robinson West has been removed from his position, according to the statement.

As a result, the United States championship has been awarded to Mountain Ridge Little League from Las Vegas.

"This is a heartbreaking decision," Stephen D. Keener, the Little League International president and CEO, said in a statement.

During a news conference on Wednesday, Civil Rights activist Jesse Jackson, parents and players called the punishment too harsh.

"If this was a case of someone overage, 16 years old - which has happened before, that's a case for forfeiture. Or manipulating a birth certificate," Jackson said.

"We do know that we are champions, our parents know we are champions, our team's parents know we are champions, and Chicago knows we are champions," said player Brandon Green.

Jackson and the parents believe race played a role in the decision, but absent from today's press conference was suspended coach Butler and the fired district administrator.

President Barack Obama, who is from Chicago and invited the team to the White House, had this to say through his press secretary.

"He's proud of the way they represented their city and the country. Dirty dealing by adults doesn't take away from that."

Those affiliated with Jackie Robinson West say they won't give up the fight until the title is restored.

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