Wednesday, January 22, 2014

The Super Bowl of Sex Trafficking?

Every once in a while, we re-post an article from elsewhere for various reasons. This week is one of those occasions. We are wrapping up a focus on "God is the Light of the World" this week by highlighting our local mission partnership with Gracehaven. Gracehaven's work focuses on the abolition of sex slavery, particularly with young girls. The following is a recent blog article about the connection of human trafficking and major sporting events. Our fight for justice for those without a voice continues.


In two weeks, America will practically come to a standstill on February 2nd as over one hundred million people will gather together in homes, bars, even churches to fix their gaze on MetLife Stadium in New Jersey to see which team will walk away with the coveted Vince Lombardi Trophy in Super Bowl XLVIII. Although some will be tuning in only for the commercials, it is a TV ratings dream!

Something else, however, will be happening with the Super Bowl that few of us can fathom and many don't want to acknowledge.

Here’s a hard truth. Sex traffickers LOVE the Super Bowl and other major sporting events. Whether it is the Olympics in Sochi, the World Cup in Brazil, the Super Bowl in New Jersey, or local sporting staples like the Memorial Tournament or the Arnold Classic, significant sporting events attract a high demand for sex trafficking.

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott agrees with Cindy McCain, the Arizona Senator's wife who states that the Super Bowl is the "largest human-trafficking venue on the planet." The ingredients are fairly obvious - saturate a city with visiting men (and yes, women) who flood hotels with money to spend, supercharge them with alcohol, sexual imagery, and other testosterone favorites, and center the entire weekend on a few hours of intoxicating adrenaline. Even a novice trafficker can't fail to capitalize.

According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, the 2010 Super Bowl included an estimated 10,000 commercial sex workers active in Miami, and in 2011 the perennial favorite resulted in 133 prostitution arrests in Dallas. Two years ago, Indiana passed new laws on human trafficking anticipating Super Bowl XLVI in Indianapolis. And last year, it was more of the same in New Orleans. Now New Jersey is gearing up to be "Football Mecca" where some warn trafficking will be at anall-time high due to the proximity of New York City's established sex trafficking network.

It is undeniable that our greatest sporting events have sex trafficking hiding in their shadows.  But perhaps there is something even darker below the surface. The NFL is currently taking heat for not addressing the problem of sex trafficking and the Super Bowl, but maybe the fault does not lie with them alone.

There is no argument that sports at all levels have many benefits. They have fostered equality, encourage teamwork, and demand personal discipline while inspiring us to new heights. But sports, particularly in America, have had an unmistakable partnership with sexual exploitation.

Consider this...

A few men, out of sheer masculine strength effortlessly hurl petite, attractive, young females through the air, skirts-a-flyin', to the cheers of male onlookers. A scene from a fraternity's YouTube channel? A rap video? A scandalous sex game in the Third World? No, it is a scene witnessed by millions every Saturday from mid-August into the BCS in January. We call it "cheerleading."

We are treading on sacred ground here. In no way is this intended to diminish the athleticism and hard work of men and women in this profession. The hard work, talent and training these athletes invest in their career are worth our respect.

Cheerleaders are talented athletes – no question. But are they necessary?

Let's deal with the nomenclature "cheerleading." Does anyone honestly believe that the 100,000+ who pack The Horseshoe in our city or The Big House up north really need any help cheering for their team? Maybe this was necessary for the Princeton teams in the 1880s when cheerleaders first appeared, but can you name a single OSU football fan that needs anyone to work them into a crazed frenzy. They come that way!

Why then do we have squads of attractive young women, scantily clad who parade in front of us during football games? 

Hockey is not exempt.  

One may not think of hockey in terms of sexual objectification. But visit Nationwide Arena and you might see it during stoppages. We call them the "Ice Crew" - go ahead, take a look. Notice who is missing? If you were going to show the people caring for the rink, would you not include the critical Zamboni drivers? Or the guys who set the nets? Notice what is missing? Not exactly the attire of choice when ice skating! 

Sex trafficking surrounds male sporting events at an alarming rate. That fact should and does outrage us. But is that the extent of the sexual exploitation and objectification that takes place Are we somewhat insulated from sexual exploitation with it confined outside our stadiums in seedy hotels and back alleys, or do we openly display it on our sidelines?

We must consider that this crime circles events like the Super Bowl and the Arnold Classic not as a deviant invader of our treasured pastimes, but as a by-product of the more “acceptable” sexual objectification and exploitation that is customary with our sporting events. For all the progress we pride ourselves for having made socially, we still all seem rather comfortable with the overt sexual objectification of women around male sporting events.

Perhaps this is just reactionary and blown out of proportion…

But do yourself a favor this Super Bowl XVLIII…consider the fact that you NEVER see/hear the name of a cheerleader. Her professional stats, her college major, not even her athleticism are discussed. (When did you last hear ESPN report on Cheerleading Combine results?) Why is she there? On what do we evaluate her success? We get volumes of stats and information on her male counterparts on the field, why not her? 

Or consider camera angles.

Television executives give us what we want. We desire to look down, almost god-like on the players. We want to see their names from on high, like Caesar in The Coliseum, applauding their success and jeering their failure. Performance is everything and how we identify and revere football players.

But then the camera swings to the cheerleaders.  Suddenly the angle changes from that of a god to a voyeuristic adolescent boy. We are suddenly brought low, looking up at our seductress as she looks flirtatiously at us, blending playful innocence with sexual desire. Her identity? Her abilities? Her professional success? Her age? Meaningless.

What we desire is that she awakens us sexually. We want her to be nameless, almost subhuman. We want her on the sidelines, a convenient sexual diversion strictly on our terms.  We want her beautiful. And we want her young. Sounds frighteningly familiar.

Maybe this is just be the judge. Tune in with the 100,000,000+ people on February 2nd and watch carefully and objectively, and then decide if there are some serious issues we must address before the Super Bowl visits Arizona in 2015!

An Editorial Note

We want to heed caution and simply reiterate that this entry is not an indictment against the sports of football or cheerleading. Nor does it suggest that they are the cause of the sex trafficking that now surrounds professional sports. To do so would be akin to blaming the internet for child pornography, and would dilute the point we are trying to make.

It is unfortunate that we could have cited several forms of sexual exploitation and objectification related to the Super Bowl. We chose cheerleading because the blatant objectification of women that it presents in this context has subtly (and unfortunately) fallen out of the attention of many viewers. In fact, our point is that objectification and exploitation is so insidious, it can infiltrate things (like sports) that are otherwise neutral or even positive and quickly turn them into something dangerous.

So maybe the article is over-sensitive (we don't think so), but for the sake of our children who are being victimized, we're willing to take that risk. 


(The above article is a repost from Gracehaven’s website. To see the original article, please visit

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