Battles On and Off the Gridiron
by Dale Reeves
This past week has been filled with many sentiments in the wake of the death of Kobe Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna, and seven others in a tragic helicopter crash last Sunday. Due to this news taking center stage in the sports world, I haven’t heard as much buildup to this coming weekend’s festivities as in previous years. In case you missed it, there is a national holiday approaching this coming Sunday. It’s called the Super Bowl. This year Super Bowl LIV pits the NFC champion San Francisco 49ers against the AFC champ Kansas City Chiefs as they battle it out for gridiron supremacy. You may be very interested in watching the game, you might just want to tune in for the halftime show featuring Jennifer Lopez and Shakira, or perhaps you have other things you’d rather do for four hours Sunday night.
Another reason to watch football on Sunday will simply be to check out the latest and greatest overpriced commercials. Some 98.2 million people watched the Super Bowl last year staring at the TV screen from the comfort of their couch, at a midwinter excuse for a party, or at a sports bar. This translates to many potential consumers for big business. Want to get a peek at some of the commercials that will be aired this year? Check them out here:
If you prefer to see animals play the game rather than human beings, you can check out Puppy Bowl XVI on Animal Planet, which unleashes lots of cuddly dogs from shelters that are up for adoption. Last year 100 percent of the cute canines that participated in the event were adopted by people after the big game.
Another Battle Being Waged
This year’s big game will take place in Miami, Florida, which has the distinction of being well-known for high numbers of sex trafficking. Miami-Dade County ranks first in incidences of human trafficking in the state of Florida, and third in the nation. Every year, Super Bowl weekend attracts tens of thousands of visitors to the host city, many of them men who arrive at the city with money and time to spare. It also attracts many traffickers from all over the country and some from places all over the world. There has been much written about this evil phenomenon, and whether or not it is actually the highest weekend of human trafficking in America every year. Depending on what article you read, that may or may not be true; regardless it has prompted federal enforcement agencies to be on the alert and to crack down on trafficking during the weekend.
In Florida this month, the state attorney’s general office has gone on the offensive in teaming up with truck drivers and drivers of rideshare services to help save victims of human trafficking as Super Bowl weekend approaches. They have been training drivers across South Florida to be vigilant in looking for certain signs. They look for things like coached responses, burns, and bruises. Additionally, Uber has been able to offer training sessions in both English and Spanish. And riders might see the National Human Trafficking Hotline pasted in the rear-view mirror of a vehicle on their next trip.
Going On the Offensive
My friend Rick Baltzersen works with an international non-profit organization called Destiny Rescue that exists to rescue and restore children who have been enslaved in the sex trade. Rick defines trafficking as “A form of modern-day slavery in which traffickers use force, fraud, or coercion to control victims for the purpose of engaging in commercial sex acts or labor services against their will.” Through the efforts of Destiny Rescue, nearly 1,450 survivors were rescued in 2019 and over 5,000 since 2011. They have been successful in keeping four out of five children they’ve rescued from rejoining the commercial sex trade industry.
Two weeks ago, Rick wrote a blog for the public library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County. You can see his full message here:
https://blog.cincinnatilibrary.org/Blog/destinyrescue. He recommends these specific action steps for us:
- Learn more about the issue. Attend an anti-trafficking awareness presentation and become aware of resources available online such as https://www.humantrafficking.ohio.gov and http://www.endslaverynow.org/end-slavery-cincinnati.
- Be ready to act. Be aware of what’s going on in your community. If you notice any suspicious activity, call the https://humantraffickinghotline.org at 888-3737-888 to report it.
- If you are a parent, talk with your children about online safety.
For more information, visit Destiny Rescue’s website: www.destinyrescue.org.
Regardless of whether this Sunday night the 49ers or the Chiefs become the 54th team to lay claim to the Vince Lombardi Trophy, remember that there are other battles being fought besides on the gridiron. Let’s be in earnest prayer for the community of Miami, Florida; for our own community; and for the children and families who are impacted by human trafficking. May God through his grace bring about rescue and redemption for many more children.
“Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8, ESV).