On the eve of Super Bowl weekend, Sen. Amy Klobuchar is urging the NFL to do more to stop sex trafficking during the championship game.
As state officials pursue a bid to draw the Super Bowl to the new Vikings stadium in 2018, the Minnesota Democrat has a specific request for NFL officials. She wants them to consider an important factor as they evaluate venues for the event in the future: local efforts to thwart sex trafficking.
Klobuchar teamed with Cindy McCain – the wife of Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. – earlier this month in a meeting with NFL officials.
“We often think of human trafficking as a problem that occurs half a world away, but the reality is it’s happening in our own backyard, including at big events like the Super Bowl,” Klobuchar said in a statement. “That’s why Cindy and I asked the NFL to support strong sex trafficking laws, and I was pleased that they have made their support clear.”
It's hard to quantify how much events like the Super Bowl drive business for sex traffickers, the Star Tribune notes.
“There are other major events as well that can bring out sex trafficking. But this is the one that we’re focused on because of the fact that we’ve seen these increases before with the event," Klobuchar told the Star Tribune.
Advocates for women and children say the event drives more prostitution than any other, ABC News reports.
“Any type of major sporting event or major convention, homecomings, any major event where there is going to be a lot of men, a lot of money, a lot of alcohol, there is going to be an increase in demand for commercial sex, which leads to more sex trafficking,” Andrea Powell, founder and executive director for the nonprofit FAIR Girls, which fights the exploitation of girls worldwide, told ABC News.
Child rights advocates said pimps were trafficking "thousands" of under-age prostitutes in Texas during the 2011 Super Bowl, Reuters reported.
The issue often draws media attention in advance of the Super Bowl, and law enforcement officials say they take the issue seriously.
Authorities in New York and New Jersey say they are cracking down on sex trafficking and prostitution in advance of this year's game at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey, CBS News reports. On Thursday, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced the arrest of 18 people suspected in a prostitution and drug-trafficking organization in Manhattan, CBS reports.
Others have argued that statistics indicating sharp spikes in prostitution are exaggerated, FOX News reports.
Klobuchar has said that 27 million people around the world are victimized by trafficking every year, and that estimates on the number of U.S. children sold for sex range from 1,400 to 2.4 million.
In Minnesota, on any given night, dozens of underage girls are sold for sex online, Klobuchar has said. She has introduced a bill in Congress to create a national strategy for battling human trafficking. The bill is also modeled in part on Minnesota's "Safe Harbor" law, aimed at treating minors sold for sex as victims, not as criminal defendants.