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Myths Aside, Super Bowl Does Not Boost Human Trafficking Numbers

The widely repeated myth that the Super Bowl (or any other major sporting event) causes an uptick in human trafficking has been debunked repeatedly, write two experts in the Arizona Republic. Despite this, some reports cause confusion. Human trafficking, also known as modern slavery, is a massive global problem. A September 2022 report indicated that 28 million people around the world are trapped in conditions of sex trafficking or labor trafficking – a significant increase since the last report six years ago. Sex and labor trafficking exist in every U.S. state and in every country around the world. Many factors other than the Super Bowl cause human trafficking to increase. The pandemic and its aftereffects, new and protracted conflict, poverty, food insecurity, homelessness, and discrimination are among the root causes of human trafficking said Kristen Abrams of the McCain Institute, and Nate King of International Justice Mission.


Misplaced attention to “cracking down” on human trafficking at the Super Bowl distorts the truth of what actually drives human trafficking, say Abrams and Kingpeo. It can also erroneously cause people to believe that human trafficking mostly, or only, accompanies major sporting events. More specifically, many images depict young female victims in chains or bound by rope. In reality, traffickers use much less obvious forms of control, such as threats of violence, false promises or control over a victim’s family member. Imagery like this is extremely problematic because it leads people to believe that all trafficking victims will be in chains, making them more likely to miss the signs of distress by those we might encounter in daily life. The Super Bowl brings interest, attention, and resources to help a host city build or strengthen its response to human trafficking, and the NFL has invested in helping these efforts surrounding this year’s Super Bowl In Phoenix. Building and strengthening local networks, from training for law enforcement to supporting NGOs, or nongovernmental organizations, serving survivors, will address human trafficking 365 days a year. This year, with support of the Arizona Human Trafficking Council, the NFL, the Arizona Host Committee, local law enforcement, service providers, airports, and dozens of other organizations, thousands of stakeholders have been trained about the indicators of human trafficking and how to respond to a potential situation in a victim-centered manner.

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A daily report co-sponsored by Arizona State University, Criminal Justice Journalists, and the National Criminal Justice Association

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