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During the Super Bowl, warnings of increased sex trafficking in the host city make the rounds each year. While it’s an often repeated “fact,” advocates say the alleged uptick is not based on real evidence. Instead, they say attention should be given to the problem year-round recognizing the disproportionate impact on Black women and girls.   

Led by attorney Kimberlé Crenshaw, the African American Policy Forum put out a statement highlighting the dangers for Black women and girls year-round and encouraging media and social justice allies to be better informed.  

The policy forum noted that while people encouraging this yearly approach to the Super Bowl might mean well, these efforts often disregard the real stories and experiences of Black women and girls. The group shared the story of Tioni Theus, a 16-year-old Black girl who was shot and her body discarded on the side of the 110 Freeway in South Los Angeles.  

Local reporting suggests Theus could have been a victim of sex trafficking. By conflating sex trafficking and sex work, along with the push for more policing, Black women and girls are often not given the support and attention their cases deserve.

“Traditional Super Bowl coverage of the alleged increase in sex trafficking surrounding the big game may persist, but what’s far more momentous and newsworthy is the chronic toll of human trafficking—and the attendant dehumanization of Black women and girls—365 days a year,” read the statement.  

With Super Bowl LVI putting a spotlight on human trafficking, the group also launched four declarations and demands for the

-stop arresting girls for juvenile prostitution

-recognize that Black girls are not sex workers; they are victims of human and child sex trafficking

-demand access to affordable and safe housing for Black women and girls as a protected right

-advocate for transparency and accountability in the foster care system

The policy forum cited data from a Congressional Black Caucus report noting that over 57 percent of juvenile prostitution arrestees were Black children. According to interviews from the Urban Institute, Black women are also targeted by sex traffickers because they perceive that the penalty is less for trafficking them than white women. 

The Los Angeles Times editorial board pointed out the “dangerously fake link between the Super Bowl and human trafficking.” The editorial board noted that the false framing leads to misspending resources for one weekend instead of addressing the issues year-round.  

The People’s City Council – Los Angeles also called out the overblown hype. 

“Law enforcement officials, public officials & news outlets continue to parrot the MYTH about the link between the Super Bowl & human trafficking,” tweeted the People’s City Council – Los Angeles. “There’s no connection between trafficking & the game & no uptick in trafficking activity as game day approaches.” 

“We do not have the luxury of believing that Super Bowl-driven campaigns that overlook these deep-seated structural and racist practices can meaningfully address the plight of trafficked Black women and girls,” the statement continued. “Such an effort can only proceed by advancing public discourse that centers trafficking survivors and seeks to create a legal and socioeconomic infrastructure that supports their wholeness and well-being—while also calling out the racist, capitalist system that lays the groundwork for their victimization.” 

Read the African American Policy Forum’s full statement here.  


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