According to Forbes, during the 2010 Super Bowl — while the nation watched the New Orleans Saints overcome a weak first quarter to beat odds-favorite Indianapolis Colts 31-17, more than 10,000 prostitutes were brought into host-city Miami. A significant number of these prostitutes were minors — kidnapped and forced to sleep with as many as 25 to 50 men in a day.
On Monday, the House Subcommittee for Africa, global health, global human rights and international organizations heard testimony on the threat Super Bowl XLVIII may have on increasing the demands on forced prostitution. The Super Bowl is the most-watched sporting event in the nation and one of the single-largest visitor draws — pumping millions into the host city’s economy. As many as 400,000 fans are expected to descend on the Meadowlands and nearby Manhattan Super Bowl weekend.
While there are no figures to give a definitive measure, it is largely believed that the male-friendly party atmosphere of the Super Bowl encourages the exploitation of women and children.
“In less than a week, New Jersey will be hosting the Super Bowl, and along with welcoming enthusiastic fans, the state also is preparing for a likely influx of both domestic and international traffickers,” said Rep. Christopher H. Smith, R-N.J., chairman of the House subcommittee. “We know that from the past, any sports venue – especially the Super Bowl – acts as a sex-trafficking magnet.”
Testimony presented before the subcommittee presented human trafficking as a $9.5 billion underground industry. New York state — which is immediately adjacent to the East Rutherford, N.J., site of MetLife Stadium, where the Super Bowl will be held — has the fourth-highest rate of human trafficking in the nation, per the Human Trafficking Resource Center.
Former madam Anna Gristina told the New York Daily News that the Super Bowl was always her busiest time of the year.
“Men have a little more freedom. Married people who normally don’t use the services feel it’s okay to cheat once a year with your friends. It’s not cool the rest of the year,” Gristina said. “It’s really weird. I don’t know why that is.”
State and federal officials have taken steps to help minimize trafficking during the Super Bowl. The New York Port Authority has installed 25 anti-trafficking campaign posters in its bus terminals. The Newark, N.J., airport has also placed similar posters throughout its terminals. Amtrak has announced its plan to show human-trafficking awareness videos to its passengers.
Training sessions have been held over the past several months to train New York and New Jersey hotel and transportation workers how to spot and respond to possible trafficking victims, including being on the lookout of individuals checking in with luggage-less younger guests, individuals paying in cash and young people without identification or unwilling to give direct answers.
The NFL has also indicated that it has been working with the FBI’s Violent Crimes Against Children program.
“As part of our ongoing efforts, the NFL has been meeting on this matter and many other security-related issues daily with federal, state and local law enforcement officials,” Brian McCarthy, vice president of communications for the NFL, said in an email to the Miami Herald.
Despite all of this, not all experts are convinced there is a problem. Thailand-based Global Alliance Against Traffic of Women stated in a 2011 report that there is “no evidence of a link between large sporting events and trafficking for prostitution.”
Regardless to such objections, the issue is being taken seriously this week in the New York City metro area.
“Online customers choose websites like Backpage and other advertisers to order an underage girl to their hotel room as easily as if they were ordering a delivery pizza,” said Rep. Ann Wagner, R-Mo., “Now just think about that for a second. Close your eyes and picture your daughter, your niece, or any young girl that you care about being sold for exploitation to a complete stranger.”