On Friday, February 22, 2019, the Jupiter, FL Police Department announced that Robert Kraft, owner of the New England Patriots, has been charged with soliciting prostitution at a massage parlor that is under investigation for human trafficking. According to authorities, customers at “Orchids of Asia”could receive a half-hour or one-hour massage, during which a sexual act could take place.The Jupiter Police Department believes the massage parlor was operating a human trafficking operation, where the victims were even forced to live on the premises. Robert Kraft’s spokesman has stated that the embattled owner “categorically denies engaging in any illegal activity.”

Human trafficking is the use of force, fraud, or coercion to obtain commercial sex or forced labor from a victim. Traffickers will use physical abuse, manipulation, and threats of deportation or harm to family/friends to keep victims enslaved.

Illicit massage parlors are well-known for operating as a front for human trafficking, forcing victims to work long hours, for which they are paid little to no wages and never receive the tips. The victims are then also forced to perform commercial sex acts for the customers.The Polaris Project, a nonprofit organization dedicated to combating modern slavery and human trafficking, released a 2018 report estimating that there are over 9,000 illicit massage businesses operating in the United States. These illegal businesses generate $2.5 billion in revenue annually.

The massage parlor has been under surveillance for several months, and authorities are working with advocates to ensure the victims are properly supported. Human trafficking is a wide-spread problem found in all areas of the globe. Often times, forced labor and sexual exploitation are joined operations, and victims are subjected to both forms of slavery.

Because of the far-reaching impact of this scandal, the NFL is considering taking action against Kraft.In a statement made on Monday, February 25, the NFL reiterated its personal conduct policy, emphasizing that players and other employees are to "refrain from 'conduct detrimental to the integrity of and public confidence in' the NFL." Reputational damage that stems from such a scandal could cause irreparable harm for a company.

While the attention paid to this incident on a national level is warranted and helps realize the grave harm facing a larger number of victims of human trafficking in the United States, we must remember that what we are witnessing in Florida is just the tip of the iceberg. Forced labor not only occurs in the United States but is rampant in the supply chain of most goods sold in the United States. While the headlines might not be as scandalous, the effects on the abused workers cannot be understated. Corporate entities should be wary of similar backlash that has befallen Kraft, such as when forced labor and human trafficking is uncovered in a company’s supply chain. From drops in market share to lost profits, companies can suffer damage to its image, having to answer not only to consumers, but also investors.

The International Supply Chain Initiative is dedicated to working with your company to educate employees on human trafficking and remediate the risk of forced labor in the supply chain.