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Not a Game: How the NYPD Uses Sports for Surveillance

nypd-sportsDave Zirin, The Nation

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. "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.

That first year, the Brooklyn United won the tournament trophy and even posed for the above photo with Police Commissioner Ray Kelly. But by 2011, the AAANY withdrew its sponsorship after learning that the league 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? Sarsour certainly 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." (Read more)

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