The Super Bowl is inherently American. Whether it be the finger-lickin’ good order of chicken wings, the stunning musical headliner of this year’s halftime show (#beyoncebowl, anyone?), or even the classic pigskin itself, there seems to be something for anyone and everyone – and Super Bowl XLVII was no exception.
Amidst the power outages and Destiny Child’s “surprise” reunion, February 3rd marked the return of the usual favorites: car commercials, beer commercials, and more car commercials. Fans of the Baltimore Ravens rejoiced as their beloved team snagged the win from the San Francisco 49ers, 34-31. Despite the electrical difficulties, it would seem that the night of this annual football feature concluded on a satisfying note for all…well, maybe except for fans of the 49ers. Right?
Wrong. For thousands of innocent women, the Super Bowl is one of the worst nights of the year. Why? Large sporting events like the Super Bowl attract sex traffickers. The throngs of people and multitude of ongoing events act as the perfect distractions for traffickers to smuggle their victims to their unfortunate fates. According to Forbes, 10,000 prostitutes were brought to Miami for the 2010 Super Bowl, and over one hundred underage arrests for prostitution occurred at the next year’s game in its host city of Dallas.
Yet when it comes to the Super Bowl and the surge in human trafficking, advocacy groups are careful to distinguish between causation and correlation. Stephanie Kilper, a representative for an advocacy group known as Operation Freedom Task Force, suggests that the Super Bowl game itself is not the sole cause of the spike in trafficking. Rather, a variety of factors could play a role: the atmosphere of stadium and tailgating parties, the abundance of alcohol, and the win-or-go-home attitude characteristic of the largest football game of the year are all possible contributing variables.
“It’s not so much that you become a victim at the Super Bowl, but that many victims are brought in to be used for all the men at the Super Bowl,” Kilper explained.
Some argue that the statistics specific to prostitution and trafficking at the Super Bowl are exaggerated. Reports from Tampa and Phoenix officials outline that there was no significantly great influx in prostitutes when their respective cities hosted the Super Bowl compared to the normal prostitution rates. Regardless of the validity of this argument, there are some numbers that you can’t ignore, a fact former human trafficking victim Clemmie Greenlee knows all too well.
“When [the traffickers] come to these kinds of events [like the Super Bowl], the first thing you’re told is how many you’re gonna perform a day,” Greenlee told The Times-Picayune last week. “You’ve got to go through 25 men a day, or you’re going through 50 of them. When they give you that number, you better make that number.”
The exact numbers of human trafficking victims from Sunday’s Super Bowl have yet to be calculated. According to the Huffington Post, however, five women had been rescued, and eight human-trafficking related arrests had been made in the host city of New Orleans as of Friday.
The Super Bowl will remain a classically American endeavor, in which sport rivalries, alcoholic beverages, and microwave oven pizzas characterize a night of good ol’ fashioned football and fun. But this time next year, be aware of what goes on just outside the stadium walls.