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It’s A Penalty Kicks Off Global Campaign to End Human Trafficking

January 15, 2021 

In recognition of January's National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month in the US, 2019 Beyond Sport Global Award Shortlisters, It’s A Penalty have launched their ninth global anti-trafficking campaign ahead of the NFL's Super Bowl LV. The campaign focuses on harnessing sport to prevent abuse, exploitation and human trafficking.  According to ECPAT-USA, more than 100,000 children are sold for sex in the US each year.

Since 2014, It’s a Penalty has been working to disrupt the fast growing and second largest criminal industry in the world: human trafficking and exploitation. Through research combined with awareness-raising campaigns during major sporting events, their ultimate goal is to eradicate abuse, exploitation and trafficking by 2030, contributing to the elimination of "modern-day slavery" and the achievement of UN SDG Target 16.2: to end abuse, exploitation, trafficking, torture and all forms of violence against children. On average, It’s A Penalty campaigns reach 188 million people. 

We recently spoke to Sarah de Carvalho, CEO of It’s A Penalty, to get an insight into their newest campaign and to understand how they've adapted to the pandemic. 

Created in collaboration with global anti-trafficking NGO and Founding Partner A21, It's a Penalty's 2021 campaign is dedicated to educating sports fans and the general public on what classifies as human trafficking and the subsequent penalties tied to those offenses. Explaining that large sporting events can lead to increased instances of human trafficking due to an influx of visitors, the organizations looks to educate people not only on how to identify exploitation and human trafficking, but also how to take action and report volations. 

They held a summit on January 11 for National Human Trafficking Awareness Day in Tampa, Florida, where the Super Bowl will be taking place next month. State and local leaders discussed how the community could best prepare to raise awareness and educate visitors and the local community on trafficking. They also trained more than 700 hotel and motel executives and staff using certified training in cooperation with the AHLA (American Hotel and Lodging Association) and the FRLA (Florida Hotel and Lodging Association).

“It’s a Penalty has brought together and partnered with a cross-section of industries including the sports industry, NFL, Buccaneers, host committee and some of the biggest names in the NFL who front our campaigns as well as the travel & tourism industry,” shared Sarah.

According to Stop The Traffik, an estimated 40.3 million people are trapped in 'modern-day slavery' globally and of these, 71% of trafficking victims are women and girls. Sarah shared that human trafficking in local communities has increased significantly due to the pandemic. 

“Students are being exploited online at an alarming rate due to lockdowns and schools being moved online. In addition, victims have been locked down with their abusers. The same horrendous acts are taking place as traffickers use online avenues to find new victims. Additionally, many are in a desperate position economically, and that increases their chances of being exploited in order to pay rent or buy basic necessities.” 

She added that as a result of the pandemic and sudden spike in incidents, It’s A Penalty have included additional efforts that will impact the local community directly. These efforts include partnering with local NGOs to deliver the campaign messaging to residents, and inserting campaign materials in food distribution boxes for vulnerable populations affected by the economic issues surrounding COVID-19. 

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The 2021 campaign is supported by notable NFL players Aaron RodgersChris GodwinNick FolesAndy DaltonRyan TannehillBenjamin Watson and William Gholston. Each of the athletes lent their voice to help raise awareness via a 30-second campaign video which is currently being shown in-flight by American Airlines and Southwest Airlines, with the potential to educate 59 million people worldwide. 

Later this year, they will run the campaign in Tokyo during the Olympics and Paralympics, using the power of sport for positive change. 

“Today many more people are aware of human trafficking and exploitation during large sporting events and therefore we can have a much bigger impact working collaboratively with the sporting industry, travel and tourism industry. We also measure impact through the increase of calls to the hotlines which can see between a 163-300% increase with the run-up and during the events. Finally, through numbers of arrests and rescues of survivors, and a survey to measure the direct impact of It’s a Penalty’s campaign impacted the general public.” 

The influence of the sporting industry is essential to spread the message of human trafficking. However, Sarah believes that messaging can be more impactful if all sporting governing bodies convened to establish an international go-to guide of principles to adhere to when organizing an event. 

"If a campaign like this existed when I was being trafficked as a teen, it would have prevented me from being trafficked in the first place," said trafficking survivor, Kat Rosenblatt. 

It's A Penalty was a 2019 Beyond Sport Global Award Shortlister for the Sport for Peace and Social Justice Award.


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