At one point during my freshman year, someone told me that the Super Bowl was a front for a trafficking ring. Perhaps because of the number of rich people attending, the ease of access, and probable reason to be there made for the perfect guise to hide a slaving ring under. After hearing that, I looked into it across the internet and on major news sites including CNN, The New York Times, even a local Fox News post when Cleveland hosted the Super Bowl, and found that basically any widely attended sporting or world event has been accused of this. The Olympics, the World Cup, the World Series, etc. are all serving in part as a shopping mall of sex slaves.

Crowd from the 2014 World Cup

I enjoy watching sports. I even keep up with a few players and have a few favorite teams I specifically like to watch. I certainly tune in every four years for just about every game of the World Cup and every year I find a house to join in the Super Bowl festivities with. Every two years when the Olympics air, I have some sort of broadcast going just about 24/7. How could some of my favorite sporting competitions be fronts for slave trafficking? And if so, do the powers that be know this? Why is it tolerated? Why don’t they crack down on it like a chef and his eggs? Well, I looked into it, and this is what I found.

Generally, law enforcement says that trafficking does not increase during large sporting events–rather, people are just more aware of it. It ends up being a buzzword of sorts and a popular thing to talk about, but no substantial increase in trafficking or tangible increase in the sex market can be found. That being said, nearly without fail, locations that hold these sporting events will increase their law enforcement dedicated to the task of cracking down on sex trafficking and, oddly enough, underpaid work also known as labor trafficking. With places like Sochi holding the Olympics and Brazil holding the World Cup final, a huge influx of cheap labor is needed to build the facilities and make sure the venue is ready in time. The costs are already astronomical without having to figure in the cost of labor, so if cheap labor can be found, it is often used.

If trafficking really doesn’t happen, why bank on it happening and allocate more law enforcement? On a hunch? Sadly, we can’t
really confirm or deny the suspicions about the events. By the very nature of trafficking, it’s an illegal and “behind closed doors” kind of activity. No one is reporting their success as a trafficking ring. There are really only assumptions to be made and trust to be put into the words of women and men rescued from the very problem we are suspicious of.

More often than not, if you were to ask a man, woman, or young child in some more disgusting cases, who have been rescued from trafficking rings whether or not the allegations against the Super Bowl and the World Cup and the Olympics are myths, they would laugh at you. It’s not a suspicion. It’s not even an educated guess; it’s a sad fact. In most cases, victims would tell you that they are given a number of clients they are to serve on any typical night. But during major sporting events, they’re expected to bring home a certain amount of money. Two different worlds. One woman told her interviewer that she was expected to stay out and couldn’t come home (which most likely meant that she couldn’t eat and couldn’t sleep) until she came back with $5,000.

While this great increase in the amount of sex trafficking or the idea of Johns traveling with their girls to these sporting events to join in the feeding frenzy that they supposedly are may not prove true, it does make you stop to think. As a viewer of these games, a rather avid viewer at that, what is my obligation to help these men, women, and children?

Police-IMG_4105Let’s just say that the law enforcement is right and there isn’t actually any increase in the ring’s activity. Super Bowls, World Cups, and the Olympics come and go, and nothing actually changes except that people become more aware of it during those times. Is that really a bad thing? Enforcement does increase to appease the masses and while the amount of trafficking happening may not actually increase, the amount of trafficking caught and the number of rings shut down does. With results like that which we’ve seen, shouldn’t the question we ask be something like “Why aren’t we working this hard to shut down human trafficking all the time?”

Now let’s say that the ugly truth is just that; true. The trade increases significantly as the demand increases during these events. Sadly, unless you want to boycott the event entirely, in which case, more power to you; there isn’t much to be done except bring awareness to these people’s plight. If you do happen to actually live in one of these communities that hosts an event, make sure the local government is doing something about it. Speak out against the injustice.

Ultimately, there is no definite answer to whether or not there is an increase in the trade during these types of sporting events. Or perhaps it should be said that there is no measurable increase. But even based on decently well educated guesses and claims by any number of survivors, law enforcement, governments, experts, and more, it ought to be said: it doesn’t really matter what is true or not. The injustice of human trafficking is constant whether it’s a sporting event, the red district, or Normal, Indiana. If you are willing to get wildly opinionated during the World Cup or the Super Bowl or the Olympics, you ought to be willing to get wildly opinionated any day of the week.