MECHANICSVILLE, Va. -- The photo seemed to travel the country in an instant -- USA Today, People magazine, The New York Post, ESPN.com, Deadspin -- and the public reaction was nearly as swift.
By now, you may have seen the Snapchat picture posted on Friday by a member of the Atlee Junior Softball All-Star team from their World Series in Kirkland, Washington. It was six members of the team making obscene gestures towards another team they had just defeated in the semifinals.
What you likely haven't seen is how these young ladies normally conduct themselves in their community, and the remorse they feel as a group for letting that community down.
The Atlee All-Stars were disqualified from their title game Saturday morning by Little League officials in Pennsylvania for poor sportsmanship against the Little League ideals.
This came after the Atlee manager, Scott Currie marched his team over to the Kirkland team that was the target of the offending post. Currie and his players apologized for their actions, and he thought that was the end of it.
"At that point, we thought we had done what we needed to do," Currie said after a long flight back to Virginia. "We were under the impression that it was taken care of."
But on Saturday morning, Currie and his assistant coaches were called to a conference room at their hotel, and read a statement from Little League headquarters in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, saying they had been disqualified with no opportunity for appeal.
"It was a shock when we found out," Currie said. "We didn't have an opportunity to defend ourselves and there was no investigation into why this happened."
Atlee had defeated Kirkland 1-0 in a contentious semifinal game in which a player and the manager of the Kirkland team were ejected. Yet as a result of Atlee's disqualification, Kirkland was advanced to the title game which they lost 6-1 to a team from Poland, Ohio.
Currie told the Richmond Times-Dispatch he felt the punishment was too harsh for the crime in this case. When asked what he felt an appropriate punishment might have been, he would have understood if tournament officials had disqualified him from managing the title game.
"I understand they had to take some type of action. Remove me from the game and take responsibility for my players doing that," " Currie said. "I just didn't think it was right to take the opportunity away from the kids for something that happened off the field."
Currie's players were immediately and understandably devastated, but he and the parents of the players are using the incident as a teaching moment from which they hope to improve.
"Think before you act. Before you do something, make sure you think about it first and what consequences can come from it," Currie said. "These girls, they're human. They just made a mistake. It doesn't define who they are for the rest of their lives."
Currie went on to explain how much this team especially has helped out the Atlee community. Upon returning from their state championship a few weeks ago, they headed straight to a back field at the Atlee Little League complex to help train a team of younger players.
The community has responded with an outpouring of support. From texts and emails to a welcoming crowd at the airport upon their return, they have received far more support than scrutiny.
"They're good kids," Currie said. "They don't want the community to think that they've done something to let them down. I think the community has shown that they haven't."
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