Super Bowl Sunday: Slavery Beneath the Stadium Seats

Arizona Superbowl XLIX 2015
Please welcome back guest writer Brittany Eddy. She has previously written on issues of human trafficking and addresses the topic here in the context of the Super Bowl:

On Super Bowl Sunday, millions of people gather in their living rooms, pubs, bars or restaurants to witness what they believe to be one of the biggest football games of the year. Those who are fortunate to be physically at the stadium in Arizona root for their favorite team, but most of them are oblivious to other things that are taking place right beneath their stadium seats.

Human trafficking is still a major issue in the United States and a billion-dollar industry.

“The Super Bowl is the greatest show on Earth, but it also has an ugly underbelly," then Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott told USA Today in 2011 when his state was gearing up to host the event. "It’s commonly known as the single largest human trafficking incident in the United States.”

Major sporting events are conducive environments for traffickers due to the increase in tourism, media attention and distractions that can help in the disguise of signs and full awareness of the sex-trafficking that is taking place.

Women and minors may be required to have sex with anywhere from 6-7 men on average per night and that number more than likely doubles with the amount of tourism that a particular city or state brings with events such as the Super Bowl, The Olympics or others.

Text overlaid on football field: "The Super Bowl is commonly known as the single largest human trafficking incident in the United States. The A21 Campaign. Become a voice. #ShockingTruth

Last year, The U.S. Department of State released the 2014 Trafficking in Persons Report in which the general statistics of human trafficking and sex-trafficking specifically mirror those of other advocacy organizations and research groups on the subject. Unfortunately, because the trafficking that takes place at these events are so subtle and hard to identify there is not a lot of hard-data to draw the direct correlation between sex-trafficking and major sporting events but it does not mean that it does not exist.

In 2014, the Polaris Project provided state ratings on human trafficking laws: 37 states passed new laws to fight human trafficking in the past year and 12 states have failed to make minimum efforts to pass laws that support victims. This is where major issues arise when it comes to rescuing victims and even further identify traffickers. We are continuously viewing and casting off victims of human trafficking as criminals which in return tends to be a strategy and tactic of traffickers themselves. It is important for the industry to continue to evolve in new ways by casting off victims as if they are criminals, leaving all eyes off of them and the underlying work that is really being done.

Hands in chains reaching through the bars of a football helmet facemaskIn Arizona, where the Super Bowl is being held this year, many activist and advocacy groups are working together to ensure that people are aware of the signs. The Arizona Super Bowl Host Committee publicizes its efforts in addressing human trafficking making it evident that it is a very real and prominent issue. They have made mention to the efforts to train volunteers and law enforcement representatives to prepare the community as to what to look for and what to do. There is also a hotline number set up for suspicious activities to be reported during the event.

The Polaris Project says that there are two primary factors that drive the spread of human trafficking: high profits and low risk. Based on the economic principles of supply and demand traffickers continue to generate billions of dollars in profits by victimizing millions of people.

It is becoming widely known that the Super Bowl and other major sporting events breed the environment where traffickers capitalize on opportunities to make more money in this grossly, multi-billion dollar industry. But are we doing enough about it?

Most states hosting major sporting events identify that human trafficking is an issue and often times will put out a report on the dangers of human trafficking right before the event. They also assign task forces and put together special committees specific to the particular sporting event. But is that enough?
Football, helmets on field. Text: Whose side are you playing for? Will you be a game changer? Help us end it.
The challenge in identifying human trafficking is difficult enough on an everyday basis for most law enforcement officials as it is subtle and traffickers are coming up with new ways to evolve the industry. Therefore, it is likely that it becomes even more difficult to identify human trafficking in the flux of “hip-hip hooray” and large crowds.

Long live the game of football and all the camaraderie that comes from it, but long gone are the days where we can keep silent about the other events taking place while the main event is carrying on.

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