The Super Bowl Sex Trafficking Fable

I LOVE football. And that may be an understatement. Since I was a child, I loved watching the games and I particularly loved watching my mom play outside with the neighborhood boys. She played quarterback, receiver, corner, etc. and always held her own. It was the coolest thing to watch.

As I got older, my love for the sport only grew. And when I was blessed with a son…man! Among his first words were da-da, ma-ma and touchdown. No lie. While he was in diapers, I would (gently) tackle him, yell touchdown and throw up my arms to signal the score. My ex husband warned me that our boy was going to be crazy for football. But that was the point.

When my son was finally old enough to play, I served as team mom. But before the start of his season, we’d road trip to several games. My bucket list was to visit every single NFL stadium and of course, I wanted to share the journey with my son. I even started a blog detailing our experience but abandoned it shortly before the divorce. I plan to pick it back up at the start of next year’s season.

My lifelong love for the sport and this day has been muddied by the allegation that the Super Bowl is the largest human trafficking event in the U.S. While there have never been statistics to prove it, the assumption has only gained momentum since it was first suggested by a Texas US Attorney General in 2011.

For years, I too believed the fabrication.

A 2011 report published by the Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women researched sex trafficking statistics related to the World Cup, the Olympics and the Super Bowl and found:

“despite massive media attention, law enforcement measures and efforts by prostitution abolitionist groups, there is no empirical evidence that trafficking for prostitution increases around large sporting events.”

That goes for all large sporting events.

U.S. law enforcement does admit that prostitution takes place in and around the environs of each year’s Super Bowl, and some of that activity does involve the sex trafficking of minors and women. But on a scale of “zero” to “thousands” the numbers tip to the low-end of that spectrum. Typically, the number of persons arrested for sex trafficking-related crimes in FBI Super Bowl operations falls in the dozens rather than the thousands, and those numbers include locals who took advantage of a major event occurring in their neighborhood. Here are the facts from previous Super Bowls:

  • Said Phoenix police Sergeant Tommy Thompson after the 2008 Super Bowl: “We may have had certain precincts that were going gangbusters looking for prostitutes, but they were picking up your everyday street prostitutes. They didn’t notice any sort of glitch in the number of prostitution arrests leading up to the Super Bowl.”
  • Said Tampa police spokeswoman Andrea Davis after the 2009 Super Bowl: “We didn’t see a huge influx in prostitutes coming into Tampa. The arrests were not a lot higher. They were almost the same.”
  • Arlington, Texas, Deputy Chief Jaime Ayala reported after the 2011 Super Bowl that of the 59 people arrested on prostitution-related offenses, only 13 were non-local sex trade workers.

As a survivor of child sex abuse and a former stripper, the emotional and physical safety of women will always be my top priority. Love for a sport will never trump that. But, every year at this time the media dims the stadium lights with its misleading and erroneous information . And too many men, women and prevention advocates are wasting time debating and protesting a non-issue. It’s not the first time Americans have fallen for a smoke and mirrors trick.

The truth is that thousands of groupies flock to all sporting events looking to hook up with men. Out-of-town dancers and prostitutes also make trips hoping to capitalize off the thousands of drunk and presumably horny men. And horribly, young girls and women are forced into sex trafficking. But instead of spending countless hours and resources exaggerating and debating an embellishment, we should spend those same resources on sex trafficking prevention and rescue as well as the healing of both the unwilling and willing victim.

 

Sources:

Barton, Eric.   “Sun-Sentinel Front-Page Story Repeats Super Bowl Prostitution Urban Legend.”    Broward/Palm Beach New Times.   3 February 2012.

Kotz, Pete.   “The Super Bowl Prostitution Hoax.”    Riverfront Times.   2 February 2012.

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