Heard the claims that the Super Bowl is the most watched sporting event in the world? It's not. What about how Americans consume more food on Super Bowl Sunday than any other day of the year? They don’t.
Turns out, there are a lot of things said about the Super Bowl that aren't true. Let's break down three of the biggest Super Bowl myths you've definitely heard:
The Super Bowl isn’t a huge sex trafficking event
While countless politicians and law enforcement leaders have held tough-talking press conferences over the years to make this claim, experts have found no link between major sporting events and sex trafficking.
A 2019 paper by researchers at the University of Texas and University of Minnesota published in the Anti-Trafficking Review found media outlets frequently repeated claims from authoritative sources without any evidence or data to support them. A 2011 study also came to similar conclusions, encouraging community leaders and stakeholders to be more thoughtful when addressing sex trafficking, which is a year-round concern.
The Super Bowl isn’t a gold mine for the host community
There are absolutely businesses that rake in the profits Super Bowl week. But there are also many that suffer, as studies have found residents often avoid high-security and high-traffic event areas in their communities.
Furthermore, taxpayers usually pay a chunk of the Super Bowl-hosting tab for the NFL (which made $12 billion in revenue in 2020) because the league typically requires host cities to provide first responders, EMS, security, and infrastructure improvements for Super Bowl week. Even when taxpayers don’t have to foot the bill for the stadium, they still frequently have to provide the NFL hotel rooms, facilities and additional tax breaks, which the Miami Herald found can cost millions.
The hundreds of millions of dollars in economic impact that the NFL and its boosters promise is wildly inflated, too, according to several economists who have studied the Super Bowl. Holy Cross economist Victor Matheson told NBCLX to divide any economic impact promises by 10 to get a more accurate figure.
Athletes and teams didn’t used to just “stick to sports”
Politics have been a part of professional football long before Colin Kaepernick and other NFL players started taking a knee — from the 1965 AFL All Stars refusing to play in New Orleans because of how Black players were treated to the NFL’s relocation of the 1993 Super Bowl following Arizona’s rejection of a Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.
Then there are NFL team owners, who have been active in politics for decades, donating millions of dollars to influential lawmakers. The owners of the teams in the 2022 Super Bowl, the LA Rams’ Stan Kroenke and the Cincinatti Bengals’ Mike Brown, are no exception.
The NFL also spends north of a $1 million a year on lobbying in Washington and operates its own political action committee, Gridiron PAC, which puts hundreds of thousands of dollars annually into the campaign coffers of Washington’s most powerful politicians.
Noah Pransky is NBCLX’s National Political Editor. He covers Washington and state politics for NBCLX, and his investigative work has been honored with national Murrow, Polk, duPont and Cronkite awards. You can contact him confidentially at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.