Super Bowl and Human Trafficking

For many of us, this Sunday’s Super Bowl represents a few hours of reprieve from work, responsibilities, and perhaps even diets, as we settle on the couch with friends and family to watch one of our nation’s most-celebrated sporting events.

But tragically, the Super Bowl joins ranks with the Olympics and the World Cup in also coinciding with one of the most abhorrent and licentious criminal industries: human trafficking. The Super Bowl is arguably the single largest sex trafficking incident in the United States. Each year, the city that welcomes droves of party-minded Super Bowl fans also (unwillingly) hosts increased incidents of underage prostitution. The weekend of Super Bowl XLIV alone brought an estimated 10,000 prostitutes to Miami.

Local authorities and hotel managers, NFL team owners and religious leaders are working together to stymie child sex rings in New Orleans this weekend. Stay tuned for their anti-trafficking public service announcement, which is set to air during the big game.  Their work for Super Bowl XLVII should also serve as a reminder of this modern-day evil that plagues our country and adulterates the dignity of the innocent and the vulnerable.

It is estimated that 17,500 men, women, and children are trafficked—“induced to perform labor or a commercial sex act through force, fraud, or coercion” —into the United States each year, and an additional 100,000 U.S. citizen children are trafficked within the United States. The majority of these victims are girls exploited for forced prostitution, trafficked by organized criminals through residential brothels, online escort services, strip clubs, and massage parlors. They join the more than 20 million women, men, and children worldwide who are victims of human trafficking and who have been sold for an average total cost of $90 U.S. dollars.

These modern-day sex slaves, these precious children whom God has called by name, are “robbed and plundered, all of them are trapped in holes and hidden in prisons” (Isaiah 42:22, 43:1). They live hidden and silenced from rescue, restoration, or reprieve.

The federal Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA)—enacted in 2000 and reauthorized through 2011—strengthens our country’s capacity to reduce human trafficking through prevention, protection, and prosecution. Unfortunately, TVPA expired in 2011. Congress must reauthorize this legislation in 2013, and states must continue to strengthen their fight against modern slavery within their borders.

We are called by God, and urged by our General Convention (2012: D042) in response to that call, to attend to this modern injustice that traps so many vulnerable in the bonds of exploitive servitude; commanded to protect and support through education, service, and advocacy those who are exploited and silenced.

So as we enjoy this Sunday’s big game and as we re-commit to our responsibilities after the game’s final touchdown, we must also re-commit to fighting the horrific exploitation of human trafficking; re-commit to emancipating those robbed, plundered, and trapped, yet whom God has called by name.

--Sarah Dreier is the Legislative Representative for International Policy for the Episcopal Church Office of Government Relations and the ELCA Washington Office

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