The most-watched sporting event in America every year is the Super Bowl and this year’s match-up is bound to be no exception. With millions of viewers scheduled to tune in, all eyes are on the host city for the game, but human traffickers have their eye on the city, too.
Like so many large events, the Super Bowl, with its raucous celebrations and crowds, is notoriously susceptible to sex trafficking. But is the reputation of being the largest human trafficking event in the world warranted? One look at the news shows the level of attention towards the issue is heightened and activists and officials in LA are busy raising awareness before the game.
It’s the country’s largest sporting event, but is it truly the largest human trafficking event in the world?
There's no definitive data that actually points to a significant increase in sex trafficking during the Super Bowl event in its host area. What is less sensational, but more troubling, is that sex and labor trafficking are a problem every day, worldwide. Consider this: in 2021, 96.4 million viewers tuned into the Tampa Bay-Kansas City matchup. But that day, and every day, there are over 40 million people trapped in modern-day slavery.
For more than two decades, the International Justice Mission (IJM) has been working with working with government partners, NGOs, and partners like you to fight this daily injustice.
The stories of modern-day slavery
What does modern-day slavery look like? It can look like Abha* in India who at the age of 13 was manipulated into being sold in the sex trafficking industry. At some points, she would be sent 20 to 30 customers a day.
It can look like Esther* in Ghana who was enslaved to work on a lake for hours on end when she was just 6 years old. For 10 years all she knew was sweeping, cleaning and processing fish.
It can look like Maarko* in the Philippines, who was seven when his trafficker began to be sexually exploit him in front of a live-audience on the internet.
National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month is every January, which aligns well with the spotlight that the Super Bowl shines on the issue. The significant emphasis on education and awareness is a welcome beacon of light on a problem that thrives in the darkness. That attention must also translate to action.
The reality of human trafficking can be overwhelming, but there is hope.
IJM is committed to rescuing and bringing justice to survivors like Abha, Esther and Maarko through strong partnership with local governments and justice systems – but it’s going to take all of us. From NFL players, to small business owners, to moms with young children, it will take all of us using our power and our resources to join the fight to end slavery in our lifetime.
Learn more about IJM at www.ijm.org.
Donald Brown is a former NFL running back for the Indianapolis Colts and San Diego Charger now serving as the Director of Professional Athlete & Influencer Partnerships for IJM.