Super Bowl 50 Human Trafficking Sting Unveils Dozens of Victims and Suspects

Joseph ZuckerFeatured ColumnistFebruary 11, 2016

The Carolina Panthers play the Denver Broncos during the first half of the NFL Super Bowl 50 football game Sunday, Feb. 7, 2016, in Santa Clara, Calif. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)
Morry Gash/Associated Press

Following sting operations launched before Super Bowl 50, members of the Santa Clara County Sheriff's Office made at least 30 arrests or citations for alleged solicitation, and authorities discovered more than 40 possible victims of human trafficking, per KRON 4 News' and Bay City News.

Denver Broncos safety Ryan Murphy was among those caught in the sting. While he was not charged, the Broncos sent him home before the game.

This isn't the first time law enforcement has increased its efforts to root out human trafficking and prostitution around the time of the Super Bowl. According to James Queally of the Los Angeles Times, almost 600 arrests were made and 68 human-trafficking victims were rescued across 17 states following a sting centered around Super Bowl XLIX in Glendale, Arizona.

"The Super Bowl is the greatest show on Earth, but it also has an ugly underbelly," then-Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott said in 2011, per Rick Jervis of USA Today. "It's commonly known as the single largest human-trafficking incident in the United States."

In January, Sudhin Thanawala of the Associated Press noted that it can be difficult to quantify the impact the Super Bowl has in regard to human trafficking: "Anti-trafficking advocates say there is no evidence that additional women or girls are forced into prostitution to serve the Super Bowl market. But those already trafficked may be moved to such events as their traffickers see opportunities to make money."

"This is hidden," said Dominique Roe-Sepowitz, who runs a human-trafficking research group at Arizona State University, per Thanawala. "The victims, buyers and sellers are all doing this behind a curtain, so it's difficult to capture what's happening."