Let this be a lesson, kids: The next time you want to gloat about beating your opponents on their home turf, think twice - especially if your chosen method of gloating is posting a photo on social media of six teammates flipping the bird under the caption, “watch out host.”
The 12-to-14-year-olds who make up the Atlee junior league softball team from Mechanicsville, Virginia, learned this the hard way on Saturday when they were disqualified from the nationally televised championship game at the Junior League World Series in Kirkland, Washington, after one team member posted that photo on her Snapchat account.
Little League spokesman Kevin Fountain called the post “inappropriate” in a statement to the Richmond Times-Dispatch, explaining that it violated the league’s “policies regarding unsportsmanlike conduct.”
The disqualification didn’t sit well with the Atlee team manager, Scott Currie, who had found out about the photo shortly after the team posted it following a 1-0 win over Kirkland on Friday. Currie immediately reprimanded the children who were involved, before demanding they delete the post and apologize in person to their rivals.
“It’s a travesty for these girls,” Currie told the Times-Dispatch on Saturday. “Yes, they screwed up, but I don’t think the punishment fit the crime.”
According to Atlee coach Chris Mardigian, who spoke to RVA Sports, the post came in retaliation to “several incidents of harassment” perpetrated by some Kirkland team members that targeted the Atlee team.
The Times-Dispatch adds that both a player and coach from Kirkland’s team were ejected after being caught relaying Atlee’s team signals from second base to Kirkland batters.
Making matters worse for Atlee, Kirkland was chosen to replace Atlee in Saturday’s championship game against USA Central.
Little League’s decision to disqualify Atlee while promoting Kirkland irked many on social media, although most admitted the photo posted to Snapchat was inexcusable. Many also said it’s equally unfair to disqualify the whole Atlee team over the actions of six members.
“You don’t disqualify an ENTIRE team due to the posting of one child,” Sueann Taylor Ellis posted on RVA Sports’ Facebook page.
“I can understand disqualifying Atlee for the post ... but to give Kirland (sic) the spot is ridiculous,” Jerry Broussard wrote. “The other team in the finals should just get the win outright. Bureaucracy at it’s (sic) finest.”
Others agreed with Little League’s decision, although they admitted it’s a “hard lesson” to learn.
“Adults/kids sooner or later need to understand that not everything should go on social media,” Michelle Turnbow Jenkins wrote. “(T)here is always someone watching!”
“I think we should all take a step back and look at the bigger picture,” Skip Horton added. “They need to think about there (sic) future colleges. This is exactly what coaches look at before the (sic) offer scholarship.”
There are dozens of cases in which social media has negatively affected a prospective student athlete’s future. In 2014, for example, a Penn State assistant coach (perhaps ironically) used Twitter to announce he “dropped another prospect” because of his social media presence.
“Actually glad I got to see the ‘real’ person before we offered him (a scholarship),” Herb Hand said.
While the Atlee player’s post and the six participants’ faces will likely exist online forever (although the post was deleted, it’s been screen-captured and shared online numerous times), the players will probably avoid any long-term damage. Not yet in high school, the children have plenty of time to rethink their online personas - and hopefully more tournament championships to play.