In the weeks leading up to the Super Bowl in Dallas in 2011, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott called the game both "the greatest show on Earth" and "the single largest human trafficking incident in the United States."
He didn't have to look hard for supporters. Dallas Police Sergeant Louis Felini told The Dallas Morning News that between 50,000 and 100,000 prostitutes were expected to come into town. The call for even more outrage was sounded by a study from the Dallas Women's Foundation, which said the throng would include 38,000 underage prostitutes.
Texas ramped up its law enforcement, targeting pimps and johns.
Within hours after the game, police had run the numbers. In a span of about two weeks, a total of 59 people had been arrested on prostitution-related charges. Thirteen were allegedly johns. Three were busted for outstanding warrants and were believed to be pimps. Only one person faced a human-trafficking charge. None of the arrests involved juveniles.
Fast forward to 2015. Before Super Bowl XLIX in Glendale, Arizona, Cindy McCain — wife of Sen. John McCain — declared the Super Bowl “the largest human-trafficking venue on the planet.” Glendale produced a lengthy public service video broadcasting the evils of the flesh trade.
But according to police, not one person was busted for prostitution-related crimes or sex trafficking in the days leading up to the game.
The trafficking trade hasn't picked up much momentum over the past two Super Bowls either.
In Santa Clara County, California in 2016, law enforcement arrested or cited 30 johns. Of the 14 arrests or citations for prostitution-related offenses, one included the arrest of a 20-year-old woman suspected of pimping a 17-year-old girl.
Over a 10-day period leading up to last year's Super Bowl in Houston, police made a total of 107 arrests. Only 21 involved "vice prostitution."
The same thing happens every year in Super Bowl cities, with civic leaders predicting Armageddon. The myth stems from a peculiar logic. They apparently believe that America's most connected corporate chieftains -- the only people with the access and money for tickets -- are a band of licentious degenerates, here to ravish enslaved maidens, not watch a game.
So teeth are gnashed and cities spend tens of thousands of dollars in police overtime. The arrest figures eventually turn out to be not much different than any other week.
Despite the overwhelming evidence, the same tale is being peddled in Minnesota for Super Bowl LII in February.
"Metro prosecutors and police anticipate that hundreds of women and girls will be sold on the sex market," read a March story in the Star Tribune.
Earlier this month, a Super Bowl Anti-Sex Trafficking Committee was formed to "elevate the issue and coordinate Minnesota’s heightened response before, during and after Super Bowl LII."
And just yesterday, another story noted a $1 million campaign "to fight Super Bowl sex trafficking," as if what's occurred at every other Super Bowl never happened.
Which begs the question: Doesn't anyone on our Super Bowl committee have access to Google?
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- Beth Schapiro responds to story debunking her child prostitute study: "We stand fully behind our work"
- Women's Funding Network sex trafficking study is junk science
- Somali gangs in Minneapolis accused of running sex-traffic ring
- U.S. juvenile sex trafficking arrests far lower than much-hyped survey suggests