The first Sunday in February is practically a national holiday in America, as it is the National Football League Super Bowl. Millions of families in America prepare pigs-in-a-blanket, salsa & guac, and prepare to host friends and family, as they cheer on their “favorite” team. But there is a not-so-secret-secret that is attached to the Super Bowl every year. It is known as the biggest human trafficking event in the country. This, however, is a slight misconception. All major sporting events draw massive human trafficking crowds. The MLB World Series, NHL Stanley Cup, Olympics, FIFA World Cup- they’re all major trafficking events. Why are these events such major draws? It’s quite simple.
Supply and demand.
The cities hosting these events become inundated with tourists, mostly men. It is the perfect storm for human trafficking. Not only does the demand for sex workers spike, but local law enforcement is inundated with dealing with all the additional people; leaving less resources to deal with those there trafficking. Traffickers and pimps from around the country will spend tens of thousands to bring their victims for major events. For these pimps, the potential benefits far outweigh the chances of getting caught. It is not unheard of for a single girl to make upwards of $50,000 in a 3 day weekend at an event like this. They go where the money is. Where there is demand, they supply. There is safety in numbers. The more traffickers that are able to slip in, the less likely they are to get caught.
When we think about human trafficking, we think about girls kept in squalor, being forced to perform for grimy old men. Though this is and can be reality, it can also look very different. Human trafficking at these events can be the cute girl at the bar; flirting and leaning in close. What those around her don’t notice is the tattoo on her, branding her to her trafficker. What they don’t know is that if she doesn’t come home with $5,000, she’ll be drugged and the men will be picked for her, and she’ll be raped. They mistake desperation for desire.
But, there is hope. Part of why the Super Bowl is thought to be the biggest trafficking event is because of the readily available statistics about arrests and rescues each year.
-45 arrests were made and 16 juveniles were recovered at the 2014 Super Bowl.
-360 sex buyers & 68 sex traffickers were arrested, and 30 juvenile trafficked victims were rescued at the 2015 SB.
-86 sex buyers & 12 traffickers were arrested, and 7 minors were rescued at the 2016 SB.
-183 sex buyers & 9 sex traffickers were arrested at the 2017 Houston SB.
-94 sex traffickers were arrested last year at the 2018 Super Bowl.
National Center on Sexual Exploitation (NCOSE)- #tackledemand
Organizations like NCOSE are campaigning to end trafficking at these major events. By bringing awareness, and encouraging participants to “tackle” the demand, they hope to eliminate the issue. If there is no demand for sex workers, then there is no need to supply.
Here are a few ways to help:
-Follow NCOSE on social media and join us the week leading up to the Super Bowl (Jan 28th – Feb 3rd) for #TackleDemand
-Post about #TackleDemand during the campaign and share our #TackleDemand posts
-Share the research/facts from this webpage with others
To make it even easier, they provide Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter posts so that all you have to do is share with the hashtag #tackledemand.
This year, as you gather with your favorite fans, as you cheer on the touchdowns, and stuff yourself full of finger foods, take a moment to remember the victims of this event. As the National Anthem is sung, as the words “home of the free,” ring from the speakers, remember those enslaved. Before you post that perfectly stylized picture of your chips & guac, post an NCOSE pic with the hashtag #tackledemand. Say a prayer for law enforcement, working to monitor and rescue through the weekend.
As soon as statistics are available, we will post an update about the arrests and rescues made at this year’s Super Bowl in Atlanta, Georgia.