Wednesday, Feb. 9, 2022, LOS ANGELES, CA — Sports fans around the world are getting ready for Super Bowl LVI, and it is estimated that more than 90 million people in the United States and an additional 30-50 million people globally will tune-in to watch the game. On that same day, and every day around the world, more than 40 million people are trapped in modern day slavery with one in four victims of modern slavery a child – that number of children would fill Los Angeles’ SoFi Stadium more than 120 times.
Over Super Bowl weekend, International Justice Mission (IJM), a global organization that combats human trafficking and slavery, is launching “Free to Play,” an initiative led by IJM’s team of professional athletes and their families called Team Freedom to leverage their voices, platforms and resources to partner with IJM to combat online sexual exploitation of children. The focus is creating a world where children are free to play, free to dream, free to live safely without fear of abuse or exploitation. IJM supporters and sports fans can also support Free to Play by visiting www.ijm.org/superbowl.
Former NFL Linebacker, current ESPN analyst and IJM Team Freedom champion Sam Acho, will help launch Free to Play during the inaugural NFL Experience Bart Starr Award Youth Camp hosted by Athletes in Action with more than 150 young athletes from around the Los Angeles area. During the camp, participating youth will work with current and former NFL players and coaches to participate in football drills and life skills rotations, and learn about IJM’s work. Acho will also speak at the 2022 NFL-sanctioned Athletes in Action Super Bowl Breakfast on February 12 to share about Free to Play.
“I have been a part of IJM’s Team Freedom for a number of years and led a group of professional athletes to experience the work firsthand, so I am honored and excited to be able to launch Free to Play during Super Bowl weekend,” said former NFL linebacker and IJM spokesperson Sam Acho. “We have the opportunity to leverage our collective platforms and resources to ensure that vulnerable children around the world are free to play and live safely without fear of abuse or exploitation.”
“We have seen online trafficking triple over three years,” said former NFL linebacker and IJM Team Freedom Director Mark Herzlich. “Professional athletes like Sam Acho and our other partners at this year’s Super Bowl are invaluable in IJM’s fight to end child exploitation and modern slavery in our lifetime.”
“There is heightened awareness of human trafficking during the Super Bowl, but the reality is that it is happening every day. It is critical that we combat this locally in Los Angeles as well as work alongside organizations like IJM who focus internationally to eradicate this horrendous crime for good,” said Los Angeles Super Bowl Anti-Human Trafficking Convener Kevin Malone.
To learn more about Free to Play and join IJM in combating online sexual exploitation of children, visit: www.ijm.org/superbowl.
About International Justice Mission:
International Justice Mission is a global organization that protects people in poverty from violence. IJM partners with local authorities in 24 program offices in 14 countries to combat slavery, violence against women and children, and other forms of abuse against people who are poor. IJM works to rescue and restore victims, hold perpetrators accountable, and help strengthen public justice systems. Learn more at: IJM.org.
About IJM’s Team Freedom Program:
Team Freedom is IJM’s team of over 100 pro athlete families across multiple major sports, including the National Football League (NFL), Major League Baseball (MLB), National Hockey League (NHL), U.S. Soccer and U.S. Olympics. Team Freedom players are committed to using the global power and influence of sports in IJM’s work to protect people in poverty from human trafficking, slavery and other forms of violence. Since Team Freedom’s launch over 5 years ago, players have advocated for survivors, traveled internationally to meet with IJM front-line teams and global leaders, and brought the work of IJM in front of tens of millions of people. They have also raised over $13 million since Team Freedom’s inception to support IJM’s frontline work.
To date, Team Freedom’s professional athletes have raised more than $1 million for the “Free to Play” initiative.
Learn more about Team Freedom at: IJM.org/team-freedom
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