Major Spike in Trafficking During the Super Bowl

Author: Davorian Ware

Super Bowl Sunday is around the corner. For many, the Super Bowl brings to mind food, big-budget ads, friends, and flat-screens. Most people don’t think about the major spikes in sex trafficking that accompany the showdown.

The Super Bowl is the biggest sport in America by viewers and dollars. It pulls in an average of 100 million viewers a year, billions of dollars in advertising, and tons of concerts and events that are Super Bowl themed. Despite the good cheer and the healthy rivalry that comes from the Super Bowl, a dark undercurrent society is thriving as well, sex trafficking. During times of big sporting events, human trafficking can get worse exploiting those most vulnerable in our communities and depriving them of their basic human rights.

NPR reported, shortly after the last Super Bowl, that the host city, Minnesota, had ramped up a campaign against sex trafficking. Marc Chadderdon, a criminal investigator in Minnesota, said that the most vulnerable targeted individuals of trafficking are children. “More often than not, you have an at-risk youth getting arrested for smaller things…and then someone’s nice to them,” Chadderdon said. “It's not like the movie "Taken." It's that somebody's nice to them, meets them at the mall or a public place, and buys them a few trivial things.” Chadderdon stated that eventually all that “compassion” dries up and the kind person begins asking for favors or for a return of their money. A trafficker then starts increasing the control they have over that child which pulls the child deeper and deeper into trafficking where they are used as commodities, or objects and their movements and interactions controlled.

Men of all socio-economic backgrounds, religious affiliations, and ages have been arrested for human trafficking. Women are also traffickers, but the majority are men. The biggest challenge to knowing the scope of the problem is that hard statistics are difficult to come by. Since human trafficking is mostly an underground network, it is difficult to know how the number of traffickers and victims. Giant sporting events like the Super Bowl, the World Cup, or the Olympics bring in crowds of potential traffickers. Groups like the US Catholic Sisters Against Human Trafficking compiled studies that show an increase in demand for commercial sex services around these events that might occur because of the rise in tourists seeking entertainment.

There is a glimmer of hope though! In a US House of Representatives committee, a testimony presented by Carol Smolenski, who is an Executive Director of End Child Prostitution and Trafficking (ECPAT), shed some light on progress being made. Smolenski was part of a multi-stakeholder task force that showcased extensive prevention, training, awareness, and other activities surrounding the Super Bowl. During the 2014 Super Bowl in New Jersey, the Human Trafficking Symposium was held in observance of Human Trafficking Awareness and Prevention Day with the Mayor, the Residence Response Center, and one hundred percent of Jersey City’s hotel leaders. With this symposium, the task force was able to provide local businesses and community leaders tools to identify traffickers and exploited individuals. They have continued to build local and national partnerships to create a multifaceted strategy.

It is important to note that events, like the Super Bowl, do not cause human trafficking. The environment does, but we can see these events as an opportunity to do more to stop traffickers and educate individuals about the warning signs . With the help of individuals like criminal investigators like Marc Chadderdon and Executive Director of ECPAT Carol Smolenski, more progress can be made. These two individuals have been preemptive in the attack on human trafficking. However, if we could push a bit further and get sporting events to take on the task of training as well, we can push back even harder on trafficking. Maybe the Super Bowl could do a commercial on the increase of human trafficking around their events; warning fans to be alert of the telltale signs of trafficking. They may even encourage fans and viewers to be trained in prevention as well. It is also imperative that we educate people who work in airports, hotels, and other parts of the hospitality industry so that people who are most likely to come into contact with trafficking victims are aware of how to recognize potential victims and report suspicious activities to authorities. Every step we take is a step closer to saving another individual from being exploited.

Ashleigh Diserio Consulting provides training on sex trafficking. We would love to bring this training to your organization or group. Together we can make an impact!

Educate yourself on trafficking via these resources:

Recognize the Signs of Trafficking (Polaris)

Spot the Signs of Human Trafficking (Hope for Justice)

Report trafficking to the National Human Trafficking Hotline

15 Way You Can Help Fight Human Trafficking

References:

  1. Greene, David. “Sex Trafficking And The Super Bowl.” NPR, NPR, 2 Feb. 2018, www.npr.org/2018/02/02/582613447/sex-trafficking-and-the-super-bowl.

  2. United States, Congress, Cong. House, Africa, Global Health, Global Rights, and International Organization, and Carol Smolenski. “Lessons Learned from Super Bowl Preparations: Preventing International Human Trafficking at Major Sporting Events.” Lessons Learned from Super Bowl Preparations: Preventing International Human Trafficking at Major Sporting Events, 113AD. 113th Congress, 1st session, report.

  3. US Catholic Sisters, Against Human Trafficking. Human Trafficking and Major Sporting Events. Human Trafficking and Major Sporting Events, Bakhitainitiative.com, 2014.


Ashleigh Diserio Consulting works with individuals and organizations, assisting them in gleaning insight into a person’s life, motivation, and past and future behavior, so certain areas of behavior can be understood with a high degree of accuracy. We provide services in the areas of criminal and intelligence investigations, management support, threat assessment, insider threat support, and education and training.