A popular notion that's been sensationalized in the media each Super Bowl season over the last half decade is that every Game Week brings with it a huge influx of sex workers and sex slaves from outside the host city, or even outside the country. But is this really backed up by any evidence?

Activists against sex trafficking have begun using the Super Bowl as a backdrop to raise awareness for their cause, as they did yesterday at City Hall. The Chronicle reports that the San Francisco Collaborative Against Human Trafficking held the event Tuesday and DA George Gascon discussed the progress the city has made against what he says is a growing problem of sex trafficking in the Bay Area.

Also, as ABC 7 reported Monday, January 11 was Human Trafficking Awareness Day, and SFO held a training seminar for flight attendants, whom activists consider to be on the front line of the fight, able to observe women entering the country or being flown by captors who may appear to be uncomfortable or afraid.

And, as KCRA reports, the FBI is planning to take a "softer, victim-centric approach" to dealing with the issue in the Bay Area over Super Bowl Week, and they will "rely on local nonprofit groups to make initial contact with the women and girls" who may be involved in the sex trade against their will.

They cite "experts" who continue to support the claim that thousands of sex workers flood Super Bowl host cities, presumably because the sex workers in the area won't be enough to satisfy demand from the mostly male clientele arriving in town. This all seems to go back to the 2010 Super Bowl in Miami, when multiple news reports said that 10,000 prostitutes arrived in Miami for the event.

Snopes says much of this is bullshit, however, and part of a repeated duping of the media by anti-prostitution activists and others. They cite the Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women, which states,

The hype around large sporting events and increases in trafficking for prostitution is often based on misinformation, poor data, and a tendency to sensationalize. Despite the lack of evidence, this idea continues to hold great appeal for prostitution abolitionist groups, anti-immigration groups, and a number of politicians, scholars and journalists. ...

Despite massive media attention, law enforcement measures and efforts by prostitution abolitionist groups, there is no empirical evidence that trafficking for prostitution increases around large sporting events. This link has been de-bunked by other anti-trafficking organisations and researchers. There is also no empirical evidence that the demand for paid sex increases dramatically during international sporting events.

It is of course easy to believe that some prostitutes may arrive in town assuming they will find extra clients, however the scale of that, and the number of those who are actually being trafficked versus those arriving willingly, has not been well documented. Arizona State researchers who tracked online sex ads leading up to the Super Bowl in Phoenix in 2015 assumed that non-local phone numbers came from pimps trafficking women from elsewhere, and they said, "60 percent of the 1,300 prostitution ads researchers flagged showed significant signs the sex provider was a trafficking victim," per KCRA.

But as Snopes puts it, "on a scale of 'zero' to 'legions' (i.e., 10,000 and upwards), the numbers reflected in news accounts are far, far closer to the low end of that spectrum."

All previous Super Bowl coverage on SFist.