A positive coronavirus test has ended the title hopes of a Fort Bend County Little League baseball team and ignited a controversy that has U.S. Rep. Troy Nehls weighing in.
The Needville Little League team was sent home from the Southwest Regional tournament last week after a member of the team's traveling party tested positive for COVID-19, according to a Facebook post.
The Needville team was not the only Little League team sent home. Nehls late last week took to social media to blast the decision, tying it into right-wing culture war talking points.
"Our country lets illegal immigrants pour across our border without a test, but our own citizens can't play a baseball game outside because one coach gets a positive test?"
Nehls wrote. It's not clear, however, how many of Nehls' assertions are accurate. Little League International, in a news release, confirmed the team had been sent home because of a positive test.
“Little League International has been informed of at least one positive COVID-19 test within multiple teams participating in the Little League Baseball Southwest Region Tournament,” a statement from Little League International said.
Needville – the Texas East state champion – had been scheduled to play the Louisiana state champion on Saturday, after winning the Texas East title in July to advance to its first-ever regional tournament.
According to Little League International’s website, players, coaches, and volunteers underwent COVID-19 testing via the saliva test prior to arrival at the tournament, and would have been tested throughout the tournament.
“While we believe that this is a political decision by Williamsport and the test is inaccurate with no second testing to assure that it was a true or false reading,” a Friday afternoon post on the team’s Facebook page said.
Despite the organizer's statement, some supporters of the team have asserted the test was a false positive, and that a follow-up nasal swab test came back negative, according to multiple news reports.
Needville Little League did not immediately respond to a direct message asking about those claims. However, league president Charlie Swanson said during a rally on Sunday that he and others are working to get the team reinstated.
“We're going to right the wrong,” he said.
Kevin Fountain, a spokesperson for Little League International, declined to elaborate on the specifics behind the decision to send home the team.
“We have shared our overview of our protocol and statements regarding this situation,” Fountain said. “At this time, we have no further statement.”
Nehls last week said he had reached out to Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton to ask for their help, and would continue to make calls to let the team play. It's not clear what jurisdiction any of those people might have to force Little League International to let Needville play.
“They have destroyed the emotions and hearts of all the players, coaches, parents and fans,” the Facebook post read. “This is not how it was supposed to end but it has. Thank you to all that have supported us."