This weekend many of us will settle down for what has essentially become a national holiday. Churches will cancel services. Youth groups will host extravagant parties. Families and friends will gather. Entire neighborhoods will become transfixed in front of millions of flat screen TVs as Super Bowl Sunday captivates our national attention.
But did you know that at the same time you sit watching the Broncos and Sea Hawks battle it out on the gridiron in New Jersey’s MetLife Stadium that there will be another game being played right there in the same town, same parking lot and same hotels. It is one of the ugliest of all games: the forced and involuntary trafficking of underage prostitutes — a game otherwise known as modern-day slavery.
Each year, as many as 300,000 American children, some as young as 12 years of age, are exploited in the sex trade. They are literally bought and sold as property by traffickers, i.e. slave owners, who use the Super Bowl and other large events to “market their wares” to “sports fans.”
For example, in 2009 two Florida men were convicted on federal charges for using Craigslist to subject a 14-year-old girl to prostitution during the Super Bowl in Tampa Bay. During the 2010 game in Miami, child advocacy groups identified numerous out-of-town underage prostitutes working the streets of multiple Miami-area neighborhoods. That same year, a Hawaiian man was convicted of flying in a 17-year-old girl from Hawaii to South Beach for prostitution during the same Super Bowl festivities. Miami-Dade police and federal agents actually organized a Minor Vice Task Force and launched a series of undercover stings targeting underage sex rings during that Super Bowl week. According to Forbes Magazine, 10,000 prostitutes were transported to Miami for the Super Bowl in 2010.
In 2011, Texas Attorney General, Gregg Abbot, shocked many sports fans by confirming that agents were monitoring websites for the trafficking of minors and that he was also launching undercover investigations in Dallas–Fort Worth and the border region between Texas and Mexico. “[Super Bowl Sunday] is commonly known,” he said, “as the single largest human trafficking incident in the United States.” Dallas police and federal authorities arrested 133 minors for prostitution during the 2011 Super Bowl.
In a recent edition of TownHall.com Michael Reagan and Jerome Elam reported that “human trafficking has become a stealth parasite that attaches itself to major sporting events, taking advantage of a large number of fans and the demand for illicit sex.” They went further to site a United States Department of Justice investigation that “discovered 40 percent of human trafficking incidents involve child prostitution or the sexual exploitation of a child.“ UNICEF, they said, “estimates there are nearly 2 million children in the commercial sex trade and major sporting events have become a nexus for sexual predators and a haven for sex trafficking.”
Elam and Reagan remind us, “January is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month. The U.S. State Department estimates there are 27 million victims of human trafficking in the world today. The United Nations reports that human trafficking is a $32 billion industry across the world and that people are being trafficked from 127 countries to be exploited in 137 countries, affecting every continent and every economy. State Department estimates also suggest that the majority of trafficking victims are women and girls, and that trafficking victims are subjected to both [forced] sex and labor… Recent data has also brought to light a previously hidden trend that a significant percentage of trafficking victims are men and boys. UNICEF reports that victims of sex trafficking are subjected to conditions that include high numbers of clients and violent or unprotected sex. They are also subjected to poor hygiene and forced drug use that includes reusing needles, and sex trafficking is a “hotbed” for sexually transmitted infections. In the United States, human trafficking is a $9.5 billion industry according to the United Nations. The U.S. Department of Justice estimates that 17,500 [new] people are trafficked into the United States each year.”
So as you watch this weekend’s game, if you find yourself casually smiling at the sexual exploitation implicit in the newest Go Daddy commercial, please remember the teenage slaves that are being bought and sold as the result of what this commercial is so brazenly selling. And remember this – These kids aren’t smiling.