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The Humanitarian Side of Everything: Sports

Welcome to "The Humanitarian Side of Everything: Creating Positive Impact in Your Daily Life" on Listenable! This is Lesson Nine, and I'm your host Alexa.

You might be surprised to hear that there's a humanitarian side to sports. I was surprised to learn this as well – but professional sports are a huge industry with plenty of impacts.

Putting on major events like the Super Bowl and the World Cup requires the employment of temporary workers to construct stadiums and work at these events. These workers are often subject to exploitation. There have even been cases of human trafficking associate with major sporting events.

Human trafficking is the practice of illegally transporting people from one country or area to another, typically for the purpose of either forced labor or a form of sexual exploitation. According to the International Labor Organization (ILO) globally, it's estimated that up to 40 million people today are exploited through the human trafficking industry. In a 2014 ILO report, human trafficking earns a profit of roughly $150 billion a year for traffickers with 66% of the global profits coming from sexual exploitation.

Each year, the Super Bowl coincides with a spike in reports of human trafficking incidents in the host city. Criminally organized sex rings will even travel from city to city where there are major sporting events.

In 2010, the small country of Qatar was awarded the bid for the 2022 FIFA World Cup. Since 2010, the country has been working to build the stadiums and infrastructure necessary to host such a major global event.

The country has employed many temporary migrant workers in order to prepare. However, these migrant workers often lack legal protections and aren't paid fairly for their work. Some can even be classified as slaves.

Recruiters promise these workers a decent wage, but fail to follow through on those promises. While in a foreign country and often in debt, these workers have no choice but to continue working and hope that they will be paid for their labor. They are subject to exploitation, all in service of building stadiums and other structures for soccer matches.

Migrant workers make up 95% of Qatar's workforce, and they lack the most basic legal protections. That's 2 million people who came to Qatar to seek better income opportunities, but now face the possibility of exploitation.

How can we enjoy the world's biggest sporting events when we know that those who make these events possible aren't fairly compensated? We need to contact leagues and teams and demand that workers are treated fairly. As fans and consumers, we can demand that all are paid fairly for their work.

If you're a soccer fan, bring attention to the wage abuses surrounding the 2022 World Cup. Learn more about the topic from Human Rights Watch, and tell other fans about what's going on. Athletes are increasingly important figures in social justice movements – get the attention of your favorite professional athletes and demand that they take action.

In this lesson, we learned about exploitation and human trafficking in professional sports. The instances we've discussed – the Super Bowl and the World Cup – are just the beginning of humanitarian impacts in the sports world. To make an impact, continue to educate yourself and share what you're learning with others.

Our next lesson is about money.

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Written by

Alexa Bussmann