Flashing lights. Opportunity and life-changing memories. Friends, wings, and a night of cheers, jeers, and excitement over the next commercial to cleverly intertwine a cute animal to tug at our heartstrings. For many, the Super Bowl provides the chance to create memories that will last a lifetime. However, for a few, the Super Bowl provides a much more sinister opportunity. An opportunity for human traffickers to capitalize on the influx of men coming into the California region.
First and foremost, it is important to understand that there are many reports refuting the claim that the Super Bowl is the largest sex trafficking event in the United States. However, according to CBS News, there is evidence supporting the fact that the Super Bowl provides an opportunity for traffickers to market their “services” to the vast amount of people attending the event. For instance, in 2015, authorities arrested 18 traffickers who had been targeting the “high-end clientele” who had come for the game. In the year before, authorities arrested 45 traffickers in relation to Super Bowl operations.
(A John is a prostitute’s client)
However, despite the FBI and local authorities ramping up training for hotels and officers to recognize the signs of trafficking, the NFL has made no such attempt to recognize the role that the Super Bowl plays in human trafficking. In fact, prior to the 2014 Super Bowl, NFL spokesperson Brian McCarthy told reporters that the idea of the Super Bowl being a trafficking hotspot was an urban legend. Despite the over 60 arrests in the two years since his comment, the NFL has made no public comment to address the situation. Instead, the NFL chooses to rely on statistics that say there is no influx in trafficking during this event. These statistics do not tell the whole story. While there is no evidence to support the notion that the Super Bowl produces enough sex trafficking to be the “most sex-trafficked event in the world”, it cannot be denied that the increase in visitors creates an opportunity for human trafficking.
This is corroborated by the fact that previous Super Bowl hosting cities launched awareness campaigns prefacing the Super Bowl. Prior to the 2015 Super Bowl, Scottsdale created a billboard campaign to raise awareness, coupled with a change in Phoenix policy, which stated that anyone soliciting prostitution would be booked into jail immediately. However, the NFL did not participate in the campaign. Appallingly, in neither 2015 nor 2016 did the NFL promote any efforts to curb sex trafficking and to increase awareness.
Despite the momentum behind the anti-sex trafficking movement, and the awareness being brought to the Super Bowl’s relevance to trafficking by Tricked, a documentary about sex-trafficking survivor Danielle Douglas, the NFL still lags behind in doing its part. Neither on the NFL’s main website, nor the NFL site dedicated to this year’s Super Bowl, is there a mention of awareness for sex trafficking. Additionally, nowhere in the massive revenue accrued through advertising is there even a small portion dedicated to educating the public on how the Super Bowl creates a very real possibility for sex trafficking.
Despite the monumental platform the NFL maintains, the chance they have to bring awareness to the issue is consistently missed. Thankfully, cities like Santa Clara, host of this year’s Super Bowl, have taken it upon themselves to raise awareness on the issue. Fortunately, these cities have recognized the dark side of one of America’s beloved events. Here’s to hoping the NFL soon will as well.
-Lane, Austin, and Allen