NFL team owner, human trafficking and faith-based communities

Religion News Service | 3/8/2019, noon
The news that New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft has been charged with soliciting sex and prostitution in a spa ...
New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft yells to fans during the team's victory parade Feb. 5 throught downtown Boston to celebrate the Patriots' Super Bowl win over the Los Angeles Rams. Photo by Associated Press

The news that New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft has been charged with soliciting sex and prostitution in a spa as part of a monthslong investigation into a massive human trafficking ring is dominating headlines for its shocking revelation about a legendary owner and current Super Bowl champion.

Mr. Kraft has denied any wrongdoing, but the scandal of human trafficking at the heart of the allegations is not any single person’s story.

Exposing and eradicating this global — and local — problem has been a primary goal for Raleigh Sadler, founder of Let My People Go Network, which works to engage churches in combating human trafficking. He is also the author of the new book “Vulnerable: Rethinking Human Trafficking,” which he wrote from his perspective as an evangelical Christian.

Religion News Service contributor Jamie Aten, executive director of the Humanitarian Disaster Institute at Wheaton College, asked Mr. Sadler about the Kraft scandal and about how faith communities can respond to human trafficking. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Q: What was your reaction when you heard about Robert Kraft being charged with solicitation?

A: It’s easy to think that the only people that solicit prostitution are those who don’t fit Mr. Kraft’s mold — especially someone who seemingly has it all. It’s not clear if Mr. Kraft knew about the spa’s connection to a human trafficking ring. Regardless, the news (that came out of a police investigation into prostitution and sex trafficking) shines a light on the fact that those in prostitution can be victims of trafficking.

We must re-examine our assumptions. Many see nothing wrong with the solicitation of those in prostitution. Yet, this case highlights a horrible truth that many of those who are “in the life” are not there on purpose, or would not have chosen it if they had other viable options.

Anyone can be trafficked and anyone can be involved in trafficking. Trafficking happens when there is someone with power exploiting someone who is powerless.

Q: What might motivate someone like Mr. Kraft to be involved in something like this?

A: Though we are still finding out more details about this situation, in general, people’s misplaced desires can drive them to exploit others’ vulnerabilities. People who buy sex are often trying to fill loneliness or desire for companionship. However, others do so out of a need for power or control.

Q: How widespread is human trafficking?

A: According to the Global Slavery Index, as many as 40.3 million people are impacted by various forms of human trafficking. Whether they are trafficked for sex in an illicit massage parlor, forced to work in an orange grove or coerced to be a live-in domestic servant for little to no pay, people are commercially exploited around the world. Cases have been reported in every country as well as every state.

Q: How do you hope the NFL will respond?

A: The NFL is facing a dilemma. With all of the players that have been involved in domestic abuse situations, and now with this sex trafficking situation, the NFL needs to stand for the dignity of people who are suffering. They need to require more from their owners, have higher expectations and expect more from their players. No matter how good a player is, people’s lives are of more value than any game.