The Little League International Tournament Committee disqualified the Atlee Little League softball team of Mechanicsville, Virginia, for unsportsmanlike conduct only a few hours before they were set to appear at the Junior League World Series. The decision resulted from a Snapchat picture featuring the players making an obscene gesture toward a rival team from Kirkland, Washington.
According to the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Atlee manager Scott Currie was made aware of the picture after it was posted. Though it was deleted soon after, he arranged for his players to apologize to the rival team, a move that was praised by the Kirkland team manager.
Kevin Fountain, spokesman for the Little League, confirmed the disqualification in a statement:
"After discovering a recent inappropriate social media post involving members of Atlee Little League’s Junior League Softball tournament team, the Little League International Tournament Committee has removed the Southeast Region from the 2017 Junior League Softball World Series for violation of Little League’s policies regarding unsportsmanlike conduct, inappropriate use of social media, and the high standard that Little League International holds for all its participants."
“It’s a travesty for these girls,” said Currie. “Yes, they screwed up, but I don’t think the punishment fit the crime.”
“We are deeply disappointed this social media post did not reflect the core values of Little League International or Atlee Little League,” wrote Jamie Batten, president of Atlee Little League.
Chris Mardigian, coach for the Atlee team, suggested that the move was retaliation, as the girls were responding to some hostilities in their game against Kirkland. During last week’s game, a Kirkland player and coach were ejected at various parts of the game for their conduct.
"We expect Little League International will take the time to fully investigate the matter, and we will comply with this investigation by providing all information about unpleasant interactions including the social media post and the time leading up to that event — not all of which were on the part of those on the Atlee softball team."
He said there was a desire “to protect youth who are recipients of inappropriate behavior both on and off the field,” adding, “We take very seriously our charge to impart the value of good sportsmanship.”