Sport Stadium

PLEASE STOP TALKING ABOUT HUMAN TRAFFICKING AND THE SUPER BOWL

As illustrated by the recent comments from the L.A. County Sheriff’s Office, misinformation around human trafficking is only increasing as the Super Bowl gets closer. In general, sex trafficking education is helpful, necessary, and worthwhile, but talking about human trafficking so heavily around the Super Bowl clouds the actual issues the anti-human trafficking movement is trying to reckon with. 

 

The Super Bowl is a convenient time to talk about human trafficking because it suggests that trafficking only exists in your community when visitors bring it in. A Super Bowl inspired awareness event allows a community to ignore the everyday, systemically entrenched labor exploitation that human trafficking actually describes. Super Bowl centered anti-trafficking policies look like temporarily increased police presence, a publicly positioned sting that cites a high number of arrests (that may or may not inadvertently arrest victims), and additional PSAs to show the city’s commitment to combating sex trafficking. 

"The Super Bowl is a convenient time to talk about human trafficking because it suggests that trafficking only exists in your community when visitors bring it in."

 

These are intuitive responses to a very complex, misrepresented issue. The term “human trafficking” implies transportation and suggests that victims and perpetrators are moving through these locales, but the legal definition of trafficking omits a transportation element. Since transportation can be expensive, difficult, and risky, there are many traffickers who choose to stay put. In a wide, populated space like Los Angeles, movement is not needed to find victims or exploiters. 

 

Trafficking is a form of advanced labor exploitation that uses force, fraud, or coercion. This can occur in agriculture, commercial sex, construction, households, street selling, and any other place where a concept of “labor” occurs. Statistics on trafficking prevalence have always been difficult to fact-check and misinformation has only grown in recent years. The myth of increased trafficking around the Super Bowl seems to have been suggested by someone who did not understand the definition of human trafficking and did not conduct research before making the claim. It has since been called into question and debunked by many in the anti-trafficking community, but continues to be parrotted each year around this time by a worried, misinformed community. 

 

We need to stop talking about human trafficking in relation to the Super Bowl, but this does not mean abandoning the issue simply because it cannot be blamed on a community outsider. Rather than hosting awareness events because you are hosting the Super Bowl, Los Angeles, talk about human trafficking because you have a growing homeless population, because you depend on amazing and diverse immigrant communities, because your income inequality is rising. 

"The anti-trafficking movement is pushing for social protections because increasing human rights and resources is the most effective way to prevent this issue and address its root causes: marginalization and desperation."

 

Don’t increase police in communities that are already overpoliced; instead, increase the number of labor inspectors that check on workers. Host awareness events all year long, and don’t ignore cases of labor trafficking to focus exclusively on sensationalized sex trafficking cases. Increase support for people experiencing housing insecurity before they become victims. The anti-trafficking movement is pushing for social protections because increasing human rights and resources is the most effective way to prevent this issue and address its root causes: marginalization and desperation. 

 

Acknowledging the presence of human trafficking due to failures of our systems, rather than the influx of sports fans, is a hard reality to reckon with. Racism, colonialism, ableism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, and the many forms of marginalization that we have built our systems on are the food that trafficking (and all labor exploitation) feeds on. The Super Bowl provides a nice excuse to ignore our own complicity in this issue, but there are many anti-trafficking activists and survivors doing the work and asking you to join. Support socio-economic health more widely and more comprehensively, Los Angeles, and you will strengthen the anti-trafficking movement far more than another police sting will. 

In addition to the in-text resources included here, check out this piece by the Washington Post or the LA Times outlining the dangerous repercussions of this trafficking-described panic.