Sunday night’s Super Bowl, in which the Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers came helmet to helmet, drummed up plenty of excitement, including this year’s best and worst commercials. Alicia Keys delivered the longest national anthem in Super Bowl history. Beyoncé lit up the half-time show, reuniting with Destiny’s Child, and silencing all doubt in her singing integrity. Following her electrifying performance, the Superdome lost power for 35 minutes, which gave the 49ers the much needed time to regroup — coming close, but not quite able to edge out the Ravens for the win. An F-bomb by Super Bowl MVP Joe Flacco and other expletives were dropped on national TV during the Baltimore Raven’s post-game celebration leaving CBS vulnerable to a fine by the FCC.
But there’s a part of the Super Bowl that doesn’t get much airplay.
“The Super Bowl is the greatest show on Earth, but it also has an ugly underbelly,” Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott told USA Today in 2011 when Texas was gearing up to host the event. “It’s commonly known as the single largest human trafficking incident in the United States.”
While thousands of fans gather in New Orleans for the NFL Championship game, pimps and other sex traffickers prime the location to turn a profit for their activities. The enormity of the crowds, partying, and booze raises demand for sexual services, all the while making this considerable problem harder to detect for law enforcement.
“It’s not so much that you become a victim at the Super Bowl, but that many victims are brought in to be used for all the men at the Super Bowl,” Stephanie Kilper, a representative for Operation Freedom Taskforce (an organization that fights human trafficking based in Akron, Ohio) told News Net 5.
Forbes reported that 10,000 sex-workers were brought to Miami’s Super Bowl in 2010 and 133 individuals were arrested for underage prostitution during Dallas’ Super Bowl in 2011.
FBI agents are partnering with federal, state, and local law enforcement officials during Super Bowl games to prevent crimes like high-priced prostitution. Law enforcement is increasingly relying on help from child advocate groups to reduce the number of incidences of trafficking and exploitation of minors during the event, said Ernie Allen, president of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children.
The Huffington Post tells a story of one sex trafficking victim, Clemmie Greenlee. She told the Times-Picayune that at the tender age of 12 years old, she was abducted, raped, and forced by her captors to work as a prostitute at large-scale events throughout the South. During the Super Bowl festivities, she said she felt immense pressure to comply with her traffickers’ demands that she sleep with 25 to 50 men each day.
"If you don't make that number (of sex customers), you're going to dearly, dearly, severely pay for it," Greenlee told the Times-Picayune. "I mean with beatings, I mean with over and over rapings. With just straight torture. The worst torture they put on you is when they make you watch the other girl get tortured because of your mistake."
Greenlee, now 53 years old, works as an advocate for sex trafficking victims.
According to FOX 8, as of last Friday, five women were rescued and eight individuals were arrested for human-trafficking related violations in New Orleans. The alleged victims thought they were in town to work as “female escorts” during the Super Bowl said a federal law enforcement official.
To help prevent the number of sex trafficking events from happening over the weekend, law enforcement agencies and advocacy groups passed out pamphlets to local establishments and bars of soap to hotels with a hotline number etched into them so potential victims could know where to reach out to for help.
Although the Super Bowl may be over, the upcoming Mardi Gras season will keep law enforcements' hands full.