One statistic from Super Bowl XLIV in Miami, Florida last February is only an estimate and received little media coverage, but is of great importance to many individuals and families and to the nation itself.
New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton celebrates after his team defeated the Indianapolis Colts in the NFL’s Super Bowl XLIV football game in Miami, Florida February 7, 2010. Child advocates and law enforcement officials say the Super Bowl is a magnet for sex traffickers and their victims, often minors.
Along with all the fans and the players, the commentators and the business people, the party-goers and the curious, the Miami Super Bowl also drew about 10,000 prostitutes, many of them child prostitutes, or former child prostitutes – “modern-day slaves,” as Ernie Allen, president and CEO of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, calls them – brought to town by their traffickers from all over the country.
“Major sporting events, like the Super Bowl, the Final Four and the BCS championship games, are opportunities for pimps and traffickers to bring in their young workers to meet a demand,” said Loren Wohlgemuth, media relations specialist for Shared Hope International.
Advocates for children organized in Florida last February to make people aware of the sex trafficking and to stop it, and they registered some successes. The advocates – national groups like Shared Hope International and the Rebecca Project, as well as local groups like Traffick9/11 – are now gearing up to combat the traffickers who will be coming to Arlington, Texas — and Dallas, Ft. Worth and Mansfield — this February for Super Bowl XLV. Federal, state and local law enforcement are joining in the effort.
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott said that Texas already sees 10 thousand human trafficking victims a year. He called the Super Bowl “a magnet for prostitution and human trafficking” and said it could bring another 10,000 trafficking victims to Arlington for just a week.
Advocates have partnered for a national I’m Not Buying It Super Bowl campaign to raise awareness of the problem, and alert local officials, law enforcement and citizenry.
“Let the public know this is going on and let them put pressure on their local officials to do something about it,” Wohlgemuth said. “Our main concern is the children who are being exploited.”
The campaign kicks off at a town hall meeting in Mansfield, Texas, on Friday.
Advocates estimate the number of minors trafficked in the sex trade in the United States between 100,000 and 300,000. Most of them are girls. The average age of initial exploitation is 13.