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Local softball team, Little League board divided by fundraiser

All-star team tries to raise money with raffle for AR-15 rifle -

UPDATE: Centennial Little League has reversed their decision. They now say the $2,000 donation will go ahead as planned. Board members released this statement on their Facebook page:

"The Board has voted and with majority votes has approved the donation of $2000 to this softball team. We hope that all our families appreciate the candor and transparency through this unfortunate set of misunderstandings and circumstances and we hope that there are no further issues. We wish everyone luck and we will keep parents and the community informed of our next steps as both a league and the board."

PMG FILE PHOTO - The District 2 team is raffling off a semi-automatic AR-15 rifle similar to the one shown here.The Centennial Little League board has yanked $2,000 worth of funding from an all-star girls’ softball team after the squad’s coaches and parents decided to raffle off an AR-15 rifle.

“It’s punishment for trying to raffle off a rifle,” said the girls’ coach, Ryan Payne. “There was no talk of not helping (before that).”

The affected team — officially known as the District 2 Big League Softball Team — won 12 of its 13 games this season, easily qualifying for the upcoming West Regional Tournament in Lancaster, Calif. It’s up to the team to pay for travel costs.

The District 2 team has qualified for the tournament for the past two years. During both of those seasons, Centennial Little League donated $2,000 toward plane tickets and other expenses.

But that was before District 2, whose players are between the ages of 16 and 19, decided to switch up their fundraising plans.

“Basically, we were spending more time doing car washes and fundraising, then we were practicing… which takes away from our competitive level,” Coach Payne said. “We knew (the raffle) might be a touchy subject for some people … so (we said), ‘If anybody’s uncomfortable, you don’t have to participate.’”

The team decided on a rifle raffle because it was a desireable item with a high monetary value and purchased it from a licensed gun dealer. In order to give the players more time to practice, only parents and coaches sold tickets for the raffle, which was announced on Tuesday, June 28. The team made it clear that the winner would still have to pass a background check, as required by state law.

Everything changed two weeks later, when an armed terrorist shot and killed 49 people at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Fla. Some initial reports said the gunman was armed with an AR-15, though it was later revealed to be a similar gun, the Sig Sauer MCX rifle.

That caused the Centennial Little League to release this statement to other media outlets.

“Given the events of the past month and the tragic deaths of children in schools ... the Centennial Little League Board of Directors does not condone the raffling of this rifle.”

Jennifer A. Loman, a spokeswoman for the board, then told the Willamette Week newspaper that Centennial is neither financially nor administratively affiliated with the District 2 Big League Softball Team. That’s true, technically.

District 2 is an all-star team, so its roster is comprised of the best softball players in the entire East Multnomah County, including some who also play (and pay membership dues) in the Centennial league. Moreover, the District 2 team typically practices on Centennial’s fields. Payne’s own daughter is enrolled in the Centennial league.

Loman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“To not support us whatsoever, and basically shunning us, it's disheartening,” Payne said. “It’s really frustrating. We were trying to leave all the girls out of it.”

Kelcy Kristine Brown, a player for the team, said that fundraising with candy bars and car washes just doesn’t cut it anymore.

“I don't understand why it's so hard to say, ‘I disagree with this, but I'll support you other ways,’” she said. “Why try to tear all of us apart because of your one opinion?”

The California tournament begins Saturday, July 23, but Payne says the team is unlikely to make the playoffs without additional financial support. Travel expenses are estimated at $10,000 for the 15 players and team management.

For more information, call 503-939-8870.