In recent history, The Super Bowl has almost become synonymous with human trafficking, specifically with sex trafficking. With headlines like, “The Superbowl’s Ugly Underbelly” or “The Superbowl: The Single Largest Human Trafficking Incident In The U.S.” It is easy to villainize the Great Gridiron Game due to these claims, but where is the real solution to the tragedy of human slavery? (Facts on the severity of Human Trafficking are posted at the bottom of blog)
The Super Bowl, Human Trafficking, and Valentine’s Day.
Every year works in synchronized redundancy. In the days leading up to the Super Bowl, social media becomes graffitied with shares, retweets, and regrams reminding us that the Super Bowl (which ironically falls a couple weeks before Valentine’s Day) brings about one of the greatest distortions of what “love” is in culture today. Then, the Monday after the game, they seem to dissipate magically from social networking to the very bottom of google searches. It is as if they are following an annual internet interest migration pattern. This “migration” usually has the all too familiar headlines of the Super Bowl having an “Ugly Underbelly” of human trafficking or titling the venue the “Single Largest Human Trafficking Incident In The United States”. Obviously these claims would make any moral individual want to boycott the event, right? Well, it never works that smoothly. In fact, it usually leads to some pretty nasty debates on Facebook and Twitter while editorials like Huffington Post, Forbes, Snopes, Fox, CNN, and etc are actually profiting from the generated interest these online debates bring to their sites and comment sections. (Yes, these news outlets are literally getting paid each time you debate about human trafficking on their comment page, so of course they love your feedback). For example, a popular online editorial posted an article on the subject of the Super Bowl and Sex Trafficking this morning saying, “The influx of fans [to the Super Bowl] fosters the optimal breeding ground for pimps looking to boost their profits. Experts say that the sheer number of men looking to pay for sex substantially increases demand and the massive crowds allow for pimps and victims to essentially go unnoticed.” Within minutes, hundreds of comments were posted debating the difference between Sex Slavery and Prostitution, or people challenging the validity of the “experts” and claims. All in all the outcome is the same. Many news outlets who post these types of articles aren’t aiming to preventing human trafficking as much as they are attempting to profit from the interest brought to their page. The debates that are taking place in these comment threads or on Facebook aren’t preventing human trafficking, they are just irrational rants filled with logical fallacies. But every year, I always ask myself the same question:
Why has the Super Bowl become known as the primary outlet for sex slavery in America?
The simple answer is because it is an easy target that makes the non-profits and online media money. While that may not be the answer non-profits want to broadcast, objectively it is the correct answer. I’m not doubting that sex slavery happens at the Super Bowl, because it probably does, but it happens at every other major sporting event as well. The Super Bowl has become the poster child the non-profits and news outlets have chosen to attack. I’m not discrediting a connection between the Super Bowl and Sex Trafficking. My plea is that we remember that Human Trafficking is a year long business and not a seasonal attraction only present at the Super Bowl. My aim is not to act as if it’s not an issue; in fact, I believe that Human Trafficking is too serious of an issue to be founded upon such a large amount of ill-sourced data and assumptions. Again, the prevention of sex slavery is TOO important and we do a major injustice to its prevention when we broadcast false data and exaggerated information to make a point. The aim shouldn’t be turn people away, but to make them aware of the signs. I recognize that the Super Bowl brings 100,000-200,000 fans (mostly men) to the host city. I also recognize that where men, alcohol, and money are in abundance, the sex industry has an interest. The only objective argument I want to make is that we stop centering our Anti-Sex Slavery soap boxes around this one venue a year and recognize that the number of people the Super Bowl brings to a city isn’t much different than what other annual sporting (and some non sporting) venues bring. All these various venues equally cultivate similar or sometimes better circumstances for the disgusting trade of Sex Slavery. For example, the NBA finals and World Series separately bring in a similar number of potential “clients”, but there seems to be no propaganda of an “Ugly Underbelly” to their championship games or host cities. I would even argue that WWE’s annual Wrestlemania event brings in more than the Super Bowl, yet you don’t hear about sex trafficking in their host cities either. Globally, the World Cup had over 6 million people attend its various official public viewing events last summer while the Olympics had over half a million people converge on London in 2012, and still no epidemic of articles warning of the “Ugly Soccer Underbelly” or headlines reading “The Olympics: The Worlds Largest Human Trafficking Incident”. Sex trafficking was likely at all those events. After all, from a business perspective, a pimp isn’t only doing business in January in the city of the big game. They are doing this revolting business 24/7, 365 days a year. It doesn’t matter if the venue is football, basketball, soccer, olympics, wrestling, fighting, horse racing, midget throwing, or hot dog eating contests. Where people are, it will be. It happens in Super Bowl cities, it happens in Vegas, and it happens at Disney World. It happens at Mardi Gras in New Orleans, and it probably happens in Time Square with holiday vacationers celebrating New Year’s in New York. Again, I’m not trying to defend the NFL, nor am I deflecting facts that have come out about the industry’s appearance in Super Bowl cities. What I am saying is that it is easy to treat the Super Bowl like Human Traffic Awareness Month, but we need to be careful with where we place our blame. The blame is not the game of football, the blame is our society and its definition of “sexuality” and “manhood”.
But what does Valentine’s Day have to do with this?
I realize that separately there appears to be no connection between the Superbowl, Human Trafficking, and Valentine’s Day. A common thread does actually link the three together, and that common thread, as stated before, is society’s definition of “manhood” and “sexuality”. As a Christian, I obviously have a very specific standard to both, but it appears that the overarching issue is how distorted both have become in our culture today.
- Concerning “Manhood”, we have created and raised a generation that teaches and promotes men being neaderthals who are bumbling idiots that only desire to have alcohol, junk food, and sex. Therefore now we justify that if men are congregating over chicken wings and beer then they must be purchasing sex as well. Our definition of manhood has made it easy for the media to use this distorted image of men as the cause to assume that sports bring about sexual slavery.
- Concerning “Sexuality”, we recognize the distortion of “love” in Human Sex Slavery, but not the distortion in defining/limiting “love” to being expressed only one day a year by the giving of gifts, heart shaped cards, flowers, and candy as on Valentine’s day. Both are products of our society’s messed up understanding of Sexuality.
Essentially, we are creating a society that has accepted a broken image of “manhood” and “sexuality” as the common norm, instead of striving to have a healthy (or dare I say holy) image of “manhood” and “sexuality”. So what is the cause? Where should we place the blame, and is there a solution? The Super Bowl is not the “cause” of Human Trafficking or our distortions.
Because of sin we have a depraved idea of “manhood” and “sexuality”, and this depravity has created a society where this despicable trade is a billion dollar industry. But what is the solution? Christ. Paul writes in 1 Timothy: “The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.” We, in our sin nature, are partners in the greatest atrocity ever to hit mankind….sin. We may not like that truth, and many preachers hate saying that word in the pulpit, but we are united in the continual active practice of it. We rebel against God regularly, and we are partners in the participation of all sin with every sinner. It is not until we transform our lives and renew our minds that we will begin to pursue any kind of fellowship with the righteousness of Christ. Without the gospel, we can’t know what healthy “manhood” and “womanhood” are. Without the gospel we can’t know what healthy “sexuality” is either. Without the gospel, we can’t know what real “Love” is and how not to distort it. This is true because without the Gospel, the source of love is absent…
GOD is Love
Human Trafficking/Sex Slavery Facts:
- I-10 is one of the world’s longest corridors for Human Trafficking with Houston, Tx being one of the world’s largest hubs for it. After entering the country, usually from Mexico, most slaves enter Houston and are either sent west for California/Vegas on i-10, east for New Orleans/Miami on i-10, or north for New York through Dallas. (U.S Department of Justice)
- 83% of human trafficking cases in the United States are in the form of sex slavery. (U.S. Department of Justice)
- 27 Million victims are estimated to be trapped in modern day slavery around the world, millions of them are children trapped in sex slavery. (Polaris Project, A21)
- 32 Billion dollars is the estimated annual profits generated by human trafficking. (Polaris Project)
- 1% of the victims of human trafficking will be rescued from captivity. (Polaris Project)