Just as the football season is ramping up, a youth football league on Long Island has lost the use of their practice fields and coaches told the I-Team they believe race may be a factor.
The Levittown Red Devils have had a home at a field on Jerusalem Avenue in Levittown for more than sixty years. But last week, the Red Devils were told to find another field.
Levittown councilman Dennis Dunne says this particular field, the Fredrick J. Neist Memorial Sports Complex, is in a special park district that is for the use of Levittown residents. Dunne says that by town code, a team can only use the field if 51 percent of its members are Levittown residents.
"The Red Devils have always been there when they had Levittown kids now they don’t have enough so they go outside to bring others in," said Dunne. "They don't meet the criteria to be a Levittown team anymore"
But the teams coaches say they have always recruited from outside of Levittown and it has never been an issue.
" I have never heard of that before," said Coach Corey McCracken, whose kids grew up in the Red Devil football program.
The I-Team asked for documentation from Levittown to prove this 51 percent residency rule. A town board representative showed us a 1950 ordinance with a portion stating that parks are for Levittown residents, but it doesn’t specifically include a “51-percent rule.” The rules aren’t included in permit applications or posted around the field, either.
“These are underprivileged minority children, the majority of our team are black and hispanic," explained Coach Bryan Pevsner. "I think that's part of it, prejudice is certainly playing a role."
The councilman vehemently denied race was a factor in the decision.
"My mother’s born and raised in puerto rico," said Dunne. "If you think i have any kind of prejudice with anybody, you’re out of your mind."
McCracken is skeptical, given the fact that the Levittown Red Devil Cheerleaders -- part of the same non profit organization as the football league -- were granted a permit to use the field. Dunne says the cheerleaders met the residency requirements.
"Levittown (Red Devils) Football and Cheerleading is one organization" said McCracken. "I don't know why they are considering them as separate entities"
Councilman Dunne says he is trying to find another field in Hempstead or Nassau County for the Red Devils to use, but remains adamant that they cannot use the field that has been their home for decades.