NYPD Allegedly Spying In Youth Athletic Leagues

| by Sylvan Lane

The New York Police Department has been accused of using various means of questionable moral standing to monitor the city for terror threats, but recent accusations claim the surveillance has even seeped into youth sports.

In 2009, the Arab American Association of New York sponsored the Brooklyn United, a team in the New York Police Department’s youth soccer league, according to The Nation.

“We were trying to engage with law enforcement, get kids off the street and it was kind of putting out our hand to the NYPD,” said the organization’s executive director, Linda Sarsour.

But in 2011, the AAANY stopped sponsoring the league after learning it was also being used as a way to monitor the Arab, Muslim and South Asian players and their families.

“The question now hangs in the air: Were the NYPD youth soccer leagues as well as the teams that compete for the ‘NYPD Cricket Cup’—yes, there is such a thing—set up explicitly for the purposes of surveillance?” Was the trust of hundreds of families who signed up their children for these leagues violated in the name of intelligence gathering? Were these leagues just a way to practice a more effective form of racial and ethnic profiling?” asks The Nation.

Sarsour thinks so. “The NYPD created these spaces,” she said. “When I think about it I get goosebumps. It is so outrageous. What parent would think if you were part of a Little League or Police Athletic League that the police would be tracking your kids on the basis of their ethnicity? When the leagues started we thought they were trying to engage our community through sports. We were wrong.”

The NYPD hasn’t commented on these accusations, and there is no concrete evidence confirming these claims, but according to Matt Apuzzo, an author who published a book about NYPD surveillance, said there is something to these allegations.

"What we know is that they did set up soccer and cricket leagues from youth to adults,” said Apuzzo. “We also know that they encouraged their detectives to join the adult cricket and soccer leagues. I don’t know if we can say they created the leagues for the express purpose of surveillance as opposed to outreach. But we do know from their own documents that they do see these sports leagues as an opportunity to keep tabs on conversations. Either way, we certainly can say that any effort at actual legitimate community outreach can be undermined by the surveillance aspect because it makes people suspicious of motives.”

Sources: ThinkProgress, The Nation