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Richmond Times Dispatch (Virginia)

 

Faces of 2017

"I think about it every day," Atlee manager Scott Currie said. "I know the girls still talk about it. It's still in the back of our minds."

Why you know them: The year's most-read story on Richmond.com wasn't about Donald Trump, Ralph Northam or even a grocery store.

It was the recounting of the Atlee Junior League softball team, which was disqualified from the World Series hours before the girls were scheduled to play for a championship on national TV.

The disqualification was for a Snapchat post a member of the team made showing six members of the team extending their middle fingers, which was directed at the host team from Kirkland, Wash.

The decision by Little League International made national news, and outlets around the world picked up on the story and weighed in on the punishment, debating the intersection of technology, sportsmanship and privacy in the smartphone era.

The team returned home the next day and was given a warm welcome upon arrival in Richmond.

What's new: The tournament took place over the summer, but that doesn't mean things are any less fresh for the participants.

"I think about it every day," Atlee manager Scott Currie said. "I know the girls still talk about it. It's still in the back of our minds."

Resolution never arrived for the team, at least in an official capacity.

The decision was made by the head Little League office in Williamsport, Pa., but representatives from the group have consistently declined to elaborate on the decision beyond a statement that was put out the morning of, which detailed the suspension. Little League rules state that such matters should be addressed internally by the team on a first offense.

Reporters weren't the only ones who got a stiff arm from Little League.

"They have not contacted anybody from the team or Atlee Little League," said Currie. "They swept this under the rug as quickly as they could."

The most controversial element of the ruling was that the Kirkland team, which Atlee defeated, was allowed to play in the championship game on ESPN.

While Little League teams run in two-year age cycles, meaning this group would be together again in 2019, Currie said he thinks it's unlikely these girls participate under the Little League banner again.

He said the group had been together since they were 7 and 8 years old, with the initial goal of winning a state championship. Success followed through the years, culminating in the World Series bid.

Currie said one of the things that helped the coaches and players through the days after the decision was the support of the Atlee community.

"I want to give a big thank you to the community for their support through everything," he said. "The people that know the families and know the kids have been very understanding and very supporting. I want to make sure all of them know they have our thanks for their support."

 

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