What to Know
- A youth football team said they lost their practice field just as the season started to ramp up, and that they thought it was race-related
- The Levittown Red Devils had a home at a field on Jerusalem Avenue in Levittown for more than 60 years up until late July
- Town officials are working to find the team a suitable permanent location -- in the meantime, the New York Jets stepped up in a big way
The youth football team booted from their home turf of 60 years late last month, a shocking ousting they contended may have been race-related, now have a reason to smile -- thanks to an NFL-size surprise from the New York Jets.
The Levittown Red Devils, a group of kids ages 6 to 14, have been practicing wherever they can find space -- and on Tuesday, a liaison for the Jets showed up and told the kids they and their families were invited to watch Gang Green play the Atlanta Falcons in a pre-season game at MetLife Stadium.
“All the kids want to do is play football,” said Steve Castleton, who secured the Jets tickets for the team.
Castleton was so moved by last week's I-Team report on the kids' boot that he immediately told the Jets about the situation. The team offered up 215 tickets and 70 parking passes.
“When I was young, we grabbed a football and we played wherever we wanted,” said Castleton. “I’ve never heard of being locked out of a football field.”
Players and their parents were thrilled.
“I felt really excited because as much as I love football, I have never gone to an NFL game before,” 12-year-old Isaiah Davis said.
Nine-year-old Kameron Roy, whose father Kahmal Roy used to be a Jet, was equally as geeked.
“I was really excited," he said."I was happy because I don’t normally see Jet games."
Town officials said the Red Devils were kicked off their practice field because not enough players were residents of Levittown.
Levittown Councilman Dennis Dunne said the team must be made up of at least 51 percent residents of the town to use the field. But when the I-Team pressed him and the Town of Hempstead Parks and Recreation Department for documentation of the policy, they did not produce it.
"The Red Devils have always been there, but they used to have Levittown kids. Now they don’t have enough so they go outside to bring others in,” Dunne told the I-Team last week. “They don’t meet the criteria to be a Levittown team anymore."
The team’s coaches say this is the first time residency has been mentioned as a criteria for practice field eligibility, and that they only found out about it on the day of their first practice. Complicating matters, just before the coaches were told they did not meet the residency requirement, 32 Levittown team members dropped out around the same time.
"These are underprivileged minority children," said one of the coaches, Bryan Pevsner. "The majority of our team are black and Hispanic."
In the meantime, the Red Devils have been playing wherever they can find a spot. But officials are working to find them a new permanent home.
"Our parks department is talking to the coaches," Nassau County Executive Laura Curran said. "And we have arranged a temporary home for them while we find a permanent solution."
Town of Hempstead supervisor Laura Gillen is also working to find a suitable location for the team.
For head coach Chris Smith, the best case scenario would be for the squad to finish up their season on their home field and worry about a new location later.
"I would ask Councilman Dunne if we could just have the field till November and then worry about a new home next summer," he said.