It is the end of February, and this year’s Super Bowl is still making headlines. People are still outraged at the halftime performance of Latin stars Jennifer Lopez and Shakira that was deemed too sexy. However, the problem of sex trafficking that occurs around sporting events of this scale didn’t seem to get much of that outrage and grief.
This month, both the NFL Super Bowl and the NBA All Star Games took place. Each year, the hosting city can expect to see an increase in visitors coming into town from other cities and states across the nation; not just for the game, but the many festivities surrounding and leading to it.
Sporting events this large are typically very enticing to sex traffickers due to the high demand of sex for hire. This is especially dangerous for young girls, as traffickers know there will be opportunities to make money exploiting them, many of whom are strangers to the city.
Social media plays such a huge role in the daily lives of young people, and traffickers have been known to take advantage of social networks. During the time of huge sporting events like these, there are many parties and clubs advertised on social media, many advertising contests with cash prizes up to thousands of dollars. Many young girls attending these festivities can engage in risky behaviors, such as meeting up with people they’ve only spoken to online, drinking with people they’ve just met, and party hopping with people they don’t know, just to name a few.
(an example of a flyer that would circulate social media)
Unfortunately, with the high demand for sex work, trafficking tends to fall under the radar during these events. Much of the focus of the media and general public tend to be on the excitement of the games and festivities. Law enforcement, financial institutions, and hotels are typically aware of the high occurrence of sex trafficking that takes place during these events, and they have systems in place to recognize and report trafficking when noticed. There were human trafficking stings taking place in cities hosting the Super Bowl and the All Star Games in recent years. Last year alone, 169 people were charged in connection with sex trafficking during an 11-day FBI sting operation leading up to the Super Bowl in Atlanta, GA, who hosted the event in 2019 (find full story here: https://www.newsweek.com/super-bowl-liii-fbi-sex-trafficking-atlanta-super-bowl-2019-1319840).
During the times of large events like these that receive national attention, steps are taken to raise awareness among the immediate communities. Many vendors and hospitality workers are educated about sex trafficking, learning what to look for especially when observing the interactions between young girls and adults (important note, not all traffickers are men).
Here are some red flags to look out for at large events like these:
Are they at an age appropriate event?
Are they dressed inappropriately?
How comfortable does the relationship seem between a child and an adult?
Do they make eye contact?
Are they unkempt?
What can you do if you suspect someone is a victim of sex trafficking?
It may be tempting to play hero when you can recognize an individual is in trouble. But it is important to consider the dangers posed to yourself, and the victim if you decide to physically intervene. Tell others what you saw, get all the information that you can, and call 911.
There is a 24/7 National Trafficking Hotline:
Call: 1 (888) 373-7888 or
Text: 233733 (Text "HELP" or "INFO")
To report a tip locally, call the confidential 24-Hour Human Trafficking Helpline: (209) 948-1911