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The Super Bowl Sex Trade

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Along With The Seahawks, Patriots And More Than 100,000 Fans, Sex Traffickers And Their Victims Will Likely Be Making A Special Trip To The Phoenix Metro Over The Next Two Weeks


By Wayne Schutsky
Modern Times Magazine

Jan. 20, 2015 — The Seattle Seahawks and New England Patriots are headed to Arizona in a few weeks for Super Bowl XLIX, and people are excited. The big game is essentially a national holiday at this point and, on a local level, the state is expecting an economic impact of around $500 to $600 million. With all of that money, pomp and circumstance floating around, it’s easy to forget that the Super Bowl has an ugly side as well.

Last year, the McCain Institute for International Leadership conducted a study titled Exploring Sex Trafficking And Prostitution Demand During The Super Bowl that took an in-depth look at the supposed link between the Super Bowl and sex trafficking. While the study did not find an explicit causal link between the Super Bowl and sex trafficking, “the authors identified distinct victim movement and marketing trends that tend to correspond with the build up towards the Super Bowl.”

The study also noted “The availability of potential victims of domestic minor sex trafficking exceeded researcher expectations with no less than 38 distinct websites advertising victims who showed indications of being a juvenile sex trafficking victim…”

So, what does this research tell us? That, in the very least, sex trafficking is occurring at normal rates during the Super Bowl. And at most, the event is causing numbers to rise.

This possible correlation makes sense. The Super Bowl attracts a heavily male audience with disposable income to one metropolitan area for a week straight.

Modern Times Magazine looked at what Phoenix-metro law enforcement was doing to attack it earlier this year and tens of thousands have read it.

In the McCain study, the research team placed two fake sex ads online in the Super Bowl host area of  New Jersey and New York during the week of the Super Bowl. It received 1,457 contacts. Similar ads placed in Phoenix at the same time received 978 contacts.

With that in mind, it makes sense that sex trafficking networks would flock to such a flush marketplace. More people equals more potential customers. Even if most Super tourists aren’t seeking sex, the sheer influx of warm bodies puts the odds in the traffickers favor, especially when you consider that a large proportion of those warm bodies are in the traffickers target demographic.

The NFL generally denies any claim that sex trafficking increases during the Super Bowl for fear of damaging its brand. With a dearth of hard stats on the subject, the league can get off just fine doing what it does best: deny, deny, deny.

That’s all a huge downer, you say, but what does it mean to the average NFL fan? I’m not going to use the Super Bowl as a chance to exploit a sex worker (unless you are).

This should still bother you. The fact that there are women of all ages and men (yes, some victims of sex trafficking are men) being forced to have sex should outrage us all. We can go after the NFL (and rightfully so) for turning a blind eye to domestic violence, racist mascots and head injuries, so why not this?

The problem is casual fans typically do not see the victims of sex trafficking. They are hidden in drop houses or hotel rooms, forced to give sex to anonymous patrons and then shuttled back into the shadows.

Unlike like the Washington mascot, domestic violence victims and retired players with traumatic brain injury that are plastered across ESPN and other major networks, the victims of sex trafficking receive relatively little media attention when you consider the sheer number of victims (which the International Labor Organization estimates is in the hundreds of thousands in the U.S.).

Additionally, because little study has been done the correlation between the Super Bowl and sex trafficking, there is not much data to lean on, and what is there is highly anecdotal. Some media outlets and the NFL itself have used this to write the entire claim off as an urban legend.

The thing is, no one is blaming the NFL. I don’t think the league is secretly running sex trafficking networks to supply the Super Bowl crowd. But, that doesn’t mean it should stay silent on the issue, or, worse, claim it doesn’t exists. The NFL has the influence to bring this issue to the fore of the public consciousness and the could make a huge difference.

Just look at the results of the McCain study, which partnered with law enforcement. By bringing specific attention to the issue during the Super Bowl, it caused several agencies to take a closer look at sex trafficking and can see the results and encouraging.

“Both the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the New Jersey State Police in New Jersey and the New York Police Department in New York City, the site of many Super Bowl related events, mounted significant investigations into sex trafficking before and during the Super Bowl resulting in the recovery of numerous victims and the arrest of numerous suspects,” according to the study.

Even if the there is no rise in sex trafficking between last year and this year in Phoenix, that doesn’t mean it’s not happening at all. After all, the study did have over 900 responders to its fake Phoenix ads during the otherwise hum-drum week at this time last year.

The NFL has the opportunity to turn the tables, acknowledge the problem and proactively seek a solution. Rather than deny the existence of sex trafficking during its premier event as it does with every other controversy, the NFL should be proactive about the issue and use its brand, influence and marketing power to aid law enforcement in tracking down sex trafficking networks and liberating victims.

The issue needs to remain in the public consciousness so that we will continue to put pressure on government and law enforcement officials to take this issue seriously and go after sex traffickers and their clientele. By viewing the issue as an attack on the Super Bowl, the league is missing the point. It, like much of its fanbase, is in dire need of a reality check.

Wayne Schutsky is a senior contributor to Modern Times Magazine.
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