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As Super Bowl Sunday approaches, many of us are excited about a number of things. Perhaps your favorite team will be playing, maybe you’re ready for the commercials, or eating delicious wings with great company. As much fun as this all may seem, the Super Bowl has a dark side to it that many people may be unaware of. According to the Institute for Sport and Social Justice, there is a consistent spike of reported instances of human trafficking in January and February when the Super Bowl occurs. According to an ESPN report, in January 2019, human trafficking reports were approximately 450. In February, the number of reported incidents jumped to 540, but fell to 140 incidents in March of that same year.

Large sporting events, such as the Super Bowl are prime targets for human traffickers because of the amount of traffic the city gets during these events. The Super Bowl, itself, is not responsible for creating a condition where sex trafficking thrives. Instead, traffickers try to exploit an increased concentration of people in a limited geographic location. In many cases, those who attend large sporting events like the Super Bowl are seeking self-satisfaction and have discretionary income. 

Although slavery is thought of as something in the past, human traffickers generate hundreds of billions of dollars in profits by trapping millions of people in despicable situations around the world. This doesn’t exclude the United States, as traffickers use violence, deception, threats, and other manipulative tactics to force people to engage in commercial sex or to provide labor or services against their will. 

Super Bowl: “The Single Largest Human Trafficking Event”

The Super Bowl generates millions of dollars every year. In fact, former Texas Attorney General, now Governor, Gregg Abbott, once referred to the Super Bowl “as the single largest human trafficking event in the United States.”

Large sporting events are two-fold. Not only do they increase labor opportunities, but as mentioned above there is an increase in the population of people who make prime targets for sex advertising. In fact, criminally organized sex rings will travel from one location to another to meet the potential demand of large sporting events. The McCain Institute says that there is an estimate of as many as 10,000 sex trafficking victims flooding cities that host the Super Bowl.

During large sporting events, specifically the Super Bowl, law enforcement may work closely with the following industries to catch a network of traffickers:

  • Hotels
  • Rest stops
  • Massage parlors
  • Modeling agencies
  • Lingerie retailers
  • Adult entertainment clubs

Agencies work together to help train staff on what signs to look for that may indicate sex trafficking.

Is the Super Bowl really plagued by sex trafficking?

There are some critics who say that the Super Bowl is not the cesspool of human trafficking that headlines make it out to be. Often, they say these claims are anecdotal or made for political gain. While there has yet to be extensive research that supports the claim that the Super Bowl is the single largest trafficking day of the year, the response from host cities and federal law enforcement to crack down on trafficking seems to support the idea that trafficking is a problem during these large scale events. It’s important to remember that any form of human trafficking occurring at any time in any place in the United States is illegal.

Who are victims of trafficking?

Human trafficking is known as the action or practice of illegally transporting people from one country or area to another. It is usually for purposes of forced labor and/or sexual exploitation. Human trafficking sees no gender, race, or background. Perpetrators see their victims as less than human, with the goal of trapping and enslaving victims, continuing the human trafficking cycle. 

Trafficking victims are usually lured with false promises of a decent job and better lives. Worldwide, women and children suffer disproportionally from trafficking. Poverty, low education, gender discrimination, illiteracy, and low job opportunities are factors that affect women the greatest, putting them at further risk of being enslaved. Further, victims are vulnerable since they often work in jobs that are hidden from the public view and unregulated by the government. 

In addition to experiencing physical problems, human trafficking has many different effects on the mental and physical well-being of victims. Victims are more likely to develop mental disorders, such as anxiety, panic disorder, depression, substance abuse, suicidal tendencies, and PTSD.

What is the U.S. role in Human Trafficking?

Although the United States is compliant with the anti-trafficking standard, a report by the U.S. Department of States says that the U.S. is “a source, transit and destination counter for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor, debt bondage, and forced prostitution.”

Social media has been both positive and negative tool when combating human trafficking. Although efforts have helped take many traffickers and victims off of the streets, the sites have made it easier. Law enforcement and citizens must be much more vigilant in spotting red flags. 

What are red flags to spot Human Trafficking?

Law enforcement will train staff to be able to identify potential warning signs of human trafficking, such as an older male accompanying young females, or submit a  request that there be no clean towel or trash pick-up in hotels, signifying that occupants never leaving the room. Below is a list of red flags that exist in human trafficking that could be spotted.

  • Poor mental health or abnormal behavior.  This may be shown through the person being fearful, depressed, anxious, submissive, tense, or nervous. Individuals may exhibit unusually anxious and fearful behavior after bringing up law enforcement. Victims will also try to avoid eye contact.
  • Poor physical health. The individual in question may appear malnourished, show signs of being physically and/or sexually abused, tortured, or physically restrained, and may lack healthcare.  
  • Lack of control. The individual may not have access to his/ her financial records, may not be allowed to speak for themselves, has few to little possessions, and isn’t in control of his/her own identification documents. 

Common work and living conditions of trafficking victims

Although the red flags outlined below may not be as noticeable as the ones mentioned earlier or may not apply to common red flags seen at a sporting event, they are still indicators to keep in mind.  If someone is a victim of human trafficking, the person in question:

  • Wouldn’t be able to leave or come as he or she wants to
  • Is in the commercial sex industry and has a pimp/manager
  • Is under 18 and is providing commercial sex acts
  • Works excessively long and/or unusual hours
  • Owes a large debt and is unable to pay it off
  • Recruited through false promises concerning work
  • Is unpaid, paid very little, or only paid through tips

If you see any of these red flags, it is best to contact the National Human Trafficking Hotline to report the situation and contact local law enforcement for a speedy response.

At The Carlson Law Firm, we care

If you are a victim of human trafficking or suspect of such actions occurring in your community, we suggest you first contact the Polaris Project. Polaris is a nationwide non-profit that employs experienced professionals who can help guide survivors of human trafficking. Do not hesitate to contact a human sex trafficking lawyer from The Carlson Law Firm. 

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