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Little League Threats Illegal

Editor:

I stood at a local softball field in Milton, PA this past weekend to watch an ASA Eastern National Junior Olympic Softball Championship for girls 18 years of age and under. I could not help but hear the conversation in the stands between parents and local coaches concerning the recent threats made by area Little League officials.

These threats were made to keep the young girls from playing softball. A team actually had to forfeit because a few parents took their young girls off the field when advised by their Little League coach. It is hard to believe that any softball organization within this country would deny young girls the opportunity to play softball and to promote the growth of the sport.

In July 1994, letters were sent by the Amateur Softball Association (ASA), which is the governing body of softball in the United States, to Dixie League, Inc. and Little League, Inc. concerning the issue of penalizing our youth for dual participation. It was always the ASA's position that any penalties for dual participation were a violation of the Amateur Sports Act of 1978.

It is evident that these rules "punished the girls who wish to broaden their horizons and increase their opportunities to play the sport of softball. In addition the inequitable treatment of these young players interferes with the ability of the national softball organizations to provide their services and develop the sport."

The ASA entered into civil action in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of VA, Richmond Division, throughout 1994 and 1995 against Dixie League, Inc.

In November 1995, Dixie Softball offered a settlement including "it (would) immediately drop its rule prohibiting participation in the ASA or any other softball organization." This settlement agreement became an order of the court without Dixie admitting that it had violated any anti-trust laws.

On Jan. 24, 1996, the court system accepted a settlement between the ASA and Dixie Softball. Although the Little League was not directly involved in the lawsuit, there was constant correspondence between the ASA and Little League, Inc. to encourage participation to create an equitable system for all girls to play the game of softball.

This settlement sent a strong message to all softball organizations that penalizing dual membership was not legal and certainly not the best way to promote the game of softball among our young female athletes. Throughout 1996 and into 2003, Little League changed their rulebooks at least two times to eliminate wording on dual participation penalties.

Now in July of 2004, someone within the hierarchy of Little League has decided to threaten young girls and their parents with forfeitures of district titles and games if girls have played within any other organization. The local news reports refer to the Amateur Softball Association and American Legion Baseball in particular.

Although Little League knows their threats cannot be enforced because they will be in violation of anti-trust laws, they have not yet, to my knowledge, suspended any individual. What they have done is spread their fear while postponing their final decisions by letting the "violators" continue to play for four more days. These scare tactics are unacceptable and clearly unethical of a national organization who is supposed to promote the great game of softball for the youth of our country.

I would hope that someone with some authority within Little League, Inc. could step forward and admit their wrongdoing for the benefit of the young girls.

David L. Persing

Vice-President of The ASA of PA, Mayor of Sunbury, PA

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