WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. — During an ESPN broadcast of Sunday's Little League Classic game between the Boston Red Sox and the Baltimore Orioles, Davenport Southeast teammates could be seen putting stuffing from the stuffed animals given away at the game onto a Black player's head.
Images of the Black player with cotton-like material stuck to his head and an unamused facial expression circulated online following the broadcast - even catching the attention of celebrities like standup comedian Leslie Jones on Twitter. Many voiced criticism and said the incident appeared to be racially insensitive.
However, the team says there was "absolutely no ill-intent or racial motivations" to the children's behavior. Southeast Little League made a statement via Facebook Tuesday afternoon to address the concern:
"During the recent broadcast of the MLB Little League Classic, ESPN showed several kids from our team putting stuffing (from a stuffed animal given away at the game) on our second baseman Jeremiah Grise’s head. The kids were doing this in an attempt to emulate the white mohawk of the Hawaii team’s star player, who they think is a great baseball player with a very cool hairstyle.
"Unfortunately, the cameras did not show the boys putting stuffing on the heads of multiple players and of Jeremiah laughing and loving his new “look." We have also posted a picture and video showing this.
"There was absolutely no ill-intent or racial motivations, as everyone on the team, including Jeremiah, was simply trying to emulate a fellow player they look up to. We are in no way trying to minimize the racial insensitivity of the boys’ actions and apologize for any harm this video has caused. We have spoken to the boys to help educate them on why it was inappropriate – which none of them had realized or understood at the time. They understand it now, providing them a life lesson they will carry forward.
"The Little League World Series has been a once-in-a-lifetime experience for our boys and we hope everyone’s focus can return to their great play, teamwork and sportsmanship on the field. We ask everyone, including the media and online provocateurs, to please let these 12-year-olds be 12-year-olds.
"We hope this statement has provided the additional context necessary to understand the whole story. We at Davenport Southeast strive to welcome kids of all races and backgrounds and take pride in the diversity of our organization. Go Davenport Southeast Little League!"
Here is the video the team posted to Facebook Tuesday afternoon:
The star player referenced in the statement is Jaron Lancaster, who has sported a blonde mohawk during the Little League World Series.
After reviewing photos from the game and speaking with the team, the Little League World Series was able to determine that multiple players on the team were taking part in the behavior during the game and there was "no ill-intent" behind it.
"As only one player appeared on the broadcast, Little League International understands that the actions shown could be perceived as racially insensitive," Little League officials said in a statement. "We have spoken with the player’s mother and the coaches, who have assured us that there was no ill-intent behind the action shown during the broadcast.”
Davenport Southeast Little League plays Pearland Little League Tuesday night on ESPN. There is a rain delay, so the game is set to start closer to 7 p.m.