Sports and Human Trafficking

Since the indefensible acts of Larry Nassar have come to light, sexual abuse within sports has become a hot topic. Not just on social media and within courtrooms, but on the fields and within government as well.

Protecting Athletes from Sexual Assault

In June 2017 the USA Gymnastics Leadership approved a new Safe Sport Policy. This 36-page policy significantly strengthened the organizations approach to athlete safety and required immediate and full compliance from all members. This was a big step toward protecting participants, especially children, from sexual abuse and victimization through harassment and bullying. Learn more HERE. Several other sports organizations have since followed suit.

Before this, however, Senior Senator from California Diane Feinstein introduced a legislative bill to standardize protective policies. The “Safe Sport Authorization Act” — S. 534 — seeks to prevent the sexual abuse of minors and amateur athletes by requiring the prompt reporting of sexual abuse to law enforcement authorities. The bill was introduced on March 6, 2017, and has since passed both the House and the Senate with a nearly unanimous vote.

Want to see how your representatives voted? The majority of senators (94%) voted in favor of the bill; a small percentage abstained (5%); an even smaller percentage (1%) voted against the bill. Click here for the full break-down and details. All that remains for this bill to become law is the signature and support of the President.

Sports and Human Trafficking

Our #HTchallenge works diligently each year to raise awareness about human trafficking surrounding large sporting events. We use the Super Bowl as a platform, but it is not the only event that attracts this criminal activity. We have seen huge spikes in sex trafficking surrounding the World Cup, Stanley Cup, and the Olympics.

Sex trafficking isn’t the only link. In some instances, athletes themselves are being trafficked. When it comes to winning, some coaches (and the organizations behind them) are willing to recruit others under false pretenses. Many athletes believe these promises and switch national allegiances, but later are denied their winnings. They are trafficked across borders for their abilities, then held captive for the win. (Source)

One athlete confessed:

“They promised me a good salary, a house and expensive cars if I won races. But I never received any. I had my prize money stolen, was tricked into taking drugs…”

Last year Eastside High School in Paterson, New Jersey, came under investigation for trafficking athletes to play on their basketball team. Players were brought from Nigeria and Puerto Rico, often passed across multiple state lines before being brought to the school. They then were offered poor living conditions with a “coach” who failed to provide adequate protection and even food. (Source)

Ultimately three district employees were fired from their coaching positions and another was suspended. All were permitted to retain their teaching positions. The girls’ basketball team ended its season early, opting to withdraw from the State Championships.

Athletes Fighting Against Human Trafficking

As awareness increases, so do the efforts to fight injustice and oppression. Several athletes are using their influence to bring change and restoration.

The Cleveland Brown’s head coach Hue Jackson and his wife, Michelle, founded The Hue Jackson Foundation in 2017. They are “committed to empowering children, teen and adult survivors of Human Trafficking through the funding of organizations that champion for and serve as a voice for those who are exploited.” Their reach is certainly global through their website and broad-reaching platform, and their action is local. Already they have partnered with The Salvation Army of Greater Cleveland to fund a safe house for survivors in that area.

Rashad Jennings is a former NY Giant who champions It’s a Penalty, an organization that seeks to protect children from abuse, exploitation, and human trafficking.

rashad jennings

Rick Fox is a former NBA player turned actor turned philanthropist. He works with a number of organizations to promote healthy relationships, including together1heart, an organization active in rescue and restoration of human trafficking survivors. He even represented the charity in a celebrity competition on The Food Network’s hit show Chopped.

Albert Pujols holds the record for the 6th most seasons (7) with 40+ homeruns in Major League Baseball. He and his wife, Diedre, founded Strike Out Slavery, an initiative that seeks to raise funds and awareness to end human trafficking. They partnered with Nick Jonas and Angel Stadium last year for their inaugural event. We’re excited to see how this initiative continues to grow this year.

strike out slavery

Former Chicago White Sox player Adam LaRouche has done some amazing things to raise funds and awareness, but he’s also had his feet on the ground. Literally. In 2016, shortly after retiring from baseball, he went undercover with The Exodus Road. This non-profit is on the front lines of human trafficking in Asia. LaRouche joined them for a 10-day trip during which he assisted in uncovering brothels and sex slavery. Learn more about his experiences and story HERE.

These are just a few examples with names you might recognize. There are more in the fight! The Institute for Sport and Social Justice promotes partnership with trusted organizations fighting a number of social injustices, including human trafficking.

All this proves once again that anyone in any profession or position can make a difference for freedom. Voters. Legislatures. Athletes. Teachers. Coaches. Administrators. Social Media Activists. And YOU.

Our next meeting is on February 24th. Come see what role you might play in abolition, rescue, and restoration.

 

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