The Super Bowl Prostitution Hoax

[Web Exclusive!] Indianapolis mobilizes for an epic battle with an urban legend

That's because, statistically speaking, most trafficking has nothing to do with sex.

The vast majority involves forced labor, people indentured to pay off smuggling fees. Hence, the lion's share of traffickers aren't pimps, but New York restaurateurs, Kansas meatpackers, and large-scale ag companies from Florida to California.

If cops wanted superior hunting, they'd do better to raid the U.S. Chamber of Commerce convention. But that would entail throwing down with the captains of industry, who just happen to own private militias of lawyers. Far easier to challenge the invisible pimps, as there's no risk of getting nicks in your sword.

Village Voice Media photo illustration. Source photography:

That's the path chosen by Zoeller. He's not exactly a seasoned crime fighter or man on the street. He made his bones as an aide to Vice President Dan Quayle, then worked the Beltway Republican patronage system before returning to Indiana.

He apparently doesn't have Google access, either.

Zoeller has been widely cited in the Indiana media for calling the Super Bowl the largest human-trafficking event in the country. He championed the new law cracking down on the sexual sale of kids. He's appeared at press conferences with Indianapolis Colts center Jeff Saturday, urging men to sign pledges foregoing the purchase of young girls. His office has trained more than 2,000 people to spot trafficking during the Super Bowl.

But while his preparations for the onslaught have come with ostentatious flair, our hero hasn't accomplished much on the ground. So far, the biggest hooker bust came in suburban Greenwood, where a hotel sting netted three arrests.

One woman was from Texas. Detectives suspect she showed up for the Super Bowl.

Still, one might think Zoeller's den is festooned with the scalps of battle, since his hometown annually hosts one of the largest sporting events in the country, the Indianapolis 500. His office has also co-chaired one of Bush's anti-trafficking task forces since 2005.

But his point woman on trafficking, Abby Kuzma, can't recall a single human-trafficking arrest at the Indy 500. Either racing fans—mostly poorer, country people—prefer to get amorous with Golden Corral hostesses, or America's pimps have been calling in sick every year.

Maybe this Super Bowl will be different. Maybe Zoeller's army will finds legions of prostitutes writhing in the Hilton kiddie pool.

For the sake of a lasting national panic, one can only hope.

After all, with attorneys general, state legislators and soap-dispensing nuns all on the team, it sometimes seems pointless to cry foul. Even the NFL's McCarthy seems resigned to the idea that America's political class is simply too invested in the Super Bowl hooker myth to make any protest worthwhile.

Despite the fact he was dead right about last year's game in Dallas, when asked for comment this year, McCarthy offers only the following:

"The National Football League supports strong human-trafficking laws. Additionally, we work closely with federal, state and local law enforcement to insure the Super Bowl is a safe environment for the host community and the fans who enjoy the game and the celebration."

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Jeff Lewis
Jeff Lewis

WFAA News Dallas, TexasBy JASON WHITELYPosted on January 31, 2011 at 10:52 PMUpdated Tuesday, Feb 1 at 1:55 PM

DALLAS — For weeks now, police, politicians and non-profit agencies have warned that a wave of prostitutes will be coming to North Texas for Super Bowl festivities.But News 8 has learned there is no evidence supporting such claims.“I think it will be like nothing we’ve ever experienced before,” said Deena Graves, executive director of Traffick 911, a Fort Worth organization dedicated stopping the sale of children into sexual slavery.Graves is among those warning of an alarming increase in underage girls sold for sex during the Super Bowl.“Traffickers follow the money, and there’s a whole lot of money that comes with the Super Bowl,” she said.Police and politicians have also issued similar statements.“The Super Bowl is, unfortunately, a major draw for human trafficking,” Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) said during a news conference on the topic at Dallas Police headquarters recently.Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott gave reporters similar warnings in Arlington.But no one can answer the question, “How do you know?”since pimps and prostitutes don’t register anywhere. Still, what makes the problem so much worse during the Super Bowl? Similar stories about the sex trade surround almost every major sporting event — even the Olympics and the World Cup.To investigate their validity, News 8 began checking with police departments in other cities that have also hosted the Super Bowl.Phoenix hosted the big game three years ago. Police there told News 8 they received similar warnings about an increase in prostitution and prepared for it, but never uncovered any evidence of a spike in illegal sexual activity.“I think one of the things people automatically assume is that while you’ve got influential people in town, people with significant amounts of money and therefore a whole lot of prostitution is going to follow with that,” said Phoenix police spokesman Sgt. Tommy Thompson. “We did not notice an increase or anything out of the ordinary.”Tampa hosted the Super Bowl in 2009. A police spokeswoman there said officers there made 11 prostitution arrests during the entire week leading up to the game.And last year, Miami police told News 8 they arrested 14 for prostitution.

Those figures are not uncommon for large cities during a seven-day period, experts said.

Last year, Canada debunked similar hype about prostitutes around the Winter Olympics in Vancouver. British Columbia funded a study which concluded that “sex trafficking and mega-events are not linked.”

A European group called The International Organization for Migration arrived at the same conclusion in Germany after rumors that 40,000 prostitutes would go to the 2006 World Cup. The estimations are “unfounded and unrealistic,” the IOM reported.

Ernie Allen, director for The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, said he was misquoted last year when predicting 10,000 prostitutes would show up in Miami for Super Bowl XLIV.

Allen said the Super Bowl likely doesn’t attract more sex traffickers than any other large event. What’s more, he also conceded there is no way to quantify the problem.

Still, he and Graves both said the issue is under-recognized and under-reported.

“Sometimes when numbers are very high, people think it’s hopeless and they may not even try to address the issue,” said Becky Sykes of the Dallas Women’s Foundation.

The organization has commissioned a study to research Internet ads and escort services during February. It’s specifically looking for underage girls as prostitutes and hoping — for the first time — to see whether the Super Bowl really increases sex trafficking in the host city.

Critics blame some women’s groups for the prostitution myth as they try to raise awareness without facts.No one disputes that trafficking is a serious and sickening problem, but whether the Super Bowl intensifies it is a prediction no one can yet prove.

Dallas TV News show about super bowl sex slave myth:

Video only:

Research report on sorting out the myths and facts about sex trafficking at sporting events:


EXCELLENT article Pete.

We need more people like you that tell the truth about stuff like this.

This is how unjust laws and scam charities get started.....hysteria and lies.


And last year it was Dallas that was going to be attacked by hordes of whores... As I recall there were none but the usual locals.

Jack Grimshaw
Jack Grimshaw

What?! No tsunami of trollops? Horde of hookers? Passel of prosties? Slew of slatterns? Well, then forget it. Anyone want my ticket?

Vla Keyess
Vla Keyess

Sad article. Pete, are you Greek? I notice you refer to the Battle of Crete in 1647. This obscure fact is usually brought up by Greeks, so just wondering??