Sex Trafficking at the Super Bowl

THE SUPER BOWL & SEX TRAFFICKING, WHAT’S THE DEAL?

Every year around mid-January, there seems to be a flood of articles and media attention surrounding sex trafficking at the Super Bowl. As one of the largest sporting events on earth, it attracts tens of thousands of men into cities, and there’s no denying that many of them are willing to pay for sex as part of their big entertainment experience. The numbers released by many local agencies in cities where the Super Bowl has been held are proof enough.

Some sources cast doubt on whether sex trafficking actually spikes during the Super Bowl, but we know that it clearly happens and no city in America is immune. One of the many lessons we’ve learned as an organization dedicating to fighting this issue is that traffickers are constantly evolving their methods to stay out of the sights of law enforcement.

PRECAUTIONS TAKEN THIS YEAR: Tampa, FL

Tweet from the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Department

The 2021 Super Bowl will be held in Tampa, Florida. Like last year, when it was hosted in Miami, the game will place in a region known for human trafficking. Florida is ranked number 3 in states with the highest rate of human trafficking cases, behind Nevada and Mississippi. Therefore, precautions and anti-trafficking efforts have already been taking place in the weeks leading up to the big event. The ride-sharing company Uber and Attorney General Ashley Moody, for example, teamed up to educate thousands of Uber drivers on the signs of human trafficking. Tells such as anxiousness, fear, paranoia, and speaking as if they have been coached are some of the signs that drivers are told to be on the lookout for and to report if encountered.[1]

Additionally, campaigns such as “It’s A Penalty” are plastering the city with information regarding signs of human trafficking and what to do about it. Partnering with airlines, hotels, and other tourist-centered industries, the initiative targets areas that are most likely to be saturated with crimes of trafficking. The city and officials are also taking the matter seriously. Signs and billboards urge residents and visitors: “Don’t Buy It”. In the 2 months leading up to the Super Bowl, officials have arrested 71 men on prostitution-related charges. Law enforcement officers are also checking in on adult entertainment businesses to ensure their compliance with Hillsborough County human trafficking ordinance.[2]

BUT IT’S BIGGER THAN JUST THE SUPER BOWL…

When his state was gearing up to host the Super Bowl in 2011, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott told USA Today, “The Super Bowl is the greatest show on Earth, but it also has an ugly underbelly… It’s commonly known as the single largest human trafficking incident in the United States.”[3] But while Super Bowl stings like the National John Suppression Initiative can make a big difference in a short amount of time, many advocates point out that they’re not enough. Sex trafficking is an issue in all 50 states, and it’s a year-round problem. Others add that the Super Bowl is not necessarily the source of the sex trafficking problem, it is simply an event that brings it all together into one concentrated place.

Stephanie Kilper of Operation Freedom Taskforce in Akron, Ohio — an organization which aims to end human trafficking – said, “It’s not so much that you become a victim at the Super Bowl, but that many victims are brought in to be used for all the men at the Super Bowl.”[4a] And in 2011, Ernie Allen, the president of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children supported this notion. He stated that each year, 100,000 to 300,000 American kids, some as young as 12 years old, are exploited in the sex trade, and at the Super Bowl, “The traffickers try to seize that opportunity to do business.”[5]

WHAT CAN I DO?

So what can we do to address the larger year-round, nationwide, and even GLOBAL issue of sex trafficking? The first and best step is to increase our awareness and knowledge of the issue so we can keep our eyes open and help end the criminal activity. Then, as Kilper says, “… pray and give. Prayer is such a powerful way to combat trafficking. It accomplishes more than one might think. And give. Give to the organizations that are fighting human trafficking. They have the ability to go in and save these men, women, and children. But they need the funds to keep their organizations going.”[4b]

Here are resources and ways you can get help combat trafficking in your community:

  • Learn about the issue – We’ve gathered some great information and links about Sex Trafficking on a global scale and specifically in our program areas here.
  • Raise awareness – Make awareness part of Game Day and donate your guess of what the final score will be to an anti-trafficking organization, then challenge your friends to do the same!
  • Report suspected incidents of trafficking by calling the National Human Trafficking Resource Center at 1-888-373-7888. This hotline is not only to report suspected trafficking but to provide help if you are or have been a human trafficking victim.

THE SUPER BOWL & TRAFFICKING THROUGHOUT THE YEARS:

The 2020 Super Bowl was held in Miami, Florida on February 2nd. The 49ers faced off against the Chiefs as law enforcement and human rights advocates faced off against traffickers and their cruel intentions. Florida is the 3rd highest-ranking human trafficking state in the country. Surrounding the Super Bowl, 47 traffickers were arrested and 22 women and girls were rescued.

In Atlanta, Georgia, the 2019 Super Bowl was preceded by the arrest of 169 traffickers. The anti trafficking efforts spurred on an influx in attention around the issue of trafficking, especially surrounding big sporting events.

ABOUT AIM

Agape International Missions (AIM) was founded on the ground in Cambodia in 1988 as a humanitarian aid and church planting organization. Since 2005, our ministries have focused on ending the evil of child sexual slavery.

AIM is doing whatever it takes to end the greatest evil of our lifetime: human trafficking. We believe in freedom at all costs. That means, we not only rescue individuals from trafficking, but we walk with them through healing and empower them in their new lives of freedom. Additionally, we work to prevent future exploitation by confronting the demand for purchased sex and protecting the vulnerable.

AIM has a US Headquarters in California with administrative staff and local, in-country staff for our programs.

REFERENCES

1 ^ Haley Hinds, “Law enforcement warns Super Bowl fans of increased scams, human trafficking” Fox News Tampa Bay (Jan 26, 2021)

2 ^ C.T. Bowen, “Hillsborough focuses on human trafficking before Super Bowl 55” Tampa Bay Times (Feb 2, 2021)

3 ^ Rick Jervis, “Child sex rings spike during Super Bowl week” USA TODAY (2011)

4a ^Super Bowl is Single-Largest Magnet for Sex Trafficking Child Prostitution in US” News5Cleveland (2013)
4b ^Super Bowl is Single-Largest Magnet for Sex Trafficking Child Prostitution in US” News5Cleveland (2013)

5 ^ See also: Ernie Allen, President and CEO of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, speaking to the House Victims’ Rights Caucus Human Trafficking Caucus, Cong. Rec., 111th Cong., 2nd sess., 2010.