Curtis Martin Jr. grew up in tough neighborhoods of Pittsburgh, PA, and was raised by a single mother. As a senior, he joined the football team at his high school at his mother’s insistence. As a conscious woman, she saw the team sport as a way to keep her son away from the street violence that had already affected his family and friends. Talented and a breakout star on the field, Curtis was soon playing for the University of Pittsburgh.
He was a 1995 third-round NFL draft pick for the New England Patriots and later played for the New York Jets, a legendary running back during an 11-year career. The pro football hall of fame’s dedication to making a difference began early. With his first paycheck from the NFL in hand, he set aside a percentage to go to charity. He started his organization, the Curtis Martin Job Foundation, and works to empower single mothers, fight homelessness in his own backyard, and send doctors who can perform life-saving medical and surgical care to places around the globe that need it most. He is a New Abolitionist, a part of a campaign that reminds the public that human trafficking for both forced labor as well as sexual exploitation is neither a historical artifact nor confined to far-away places. As a New Abolitionist, Curtis has joined survivor leaders and advocates taking a stand against this crime and human rights violation. His philanthropic work with marginalized communities is a vital part of the fight against this form of violence.
Asked about Curtis Martin and his contribution to ending violence against women and girls, Gloria Steinem said, “Curtis Martin is living proof that the most revolutionary of all emotions is empathy. Because he empathized with his mother and not with the so-called ‘masculine’ violence against her, he grew up to become a symbol of hope for all of us who believe that women and men are linked, not ranked.”
She also added, “In honoring him, the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women is honoring a brave and inspiring human being, and also giving us hope of a time when inequality and violence between women and men — so new in human history, as the first residents here on Mannahatta Island could tell us — will be a relic of the past.”
“And as a book called Sex and World Peace proves, the biggest indicator of a country’s violence — both within itself and military violence against other countries — is not economics, access to resources, religion, or even degree of democracy; it’s violence against females. That is what we see this first in our own families or neighborhoods, and it normalizes the idea that one group is born to dominate another. In challenging violence against women, Curtis is challenging all violence — and we honor him for it.”
About Coalition Against Trafficking in Women (CATW):
The Coalition Against Trafficking in Women (CATW) is among the earliest international organizations working to stop the sexual exploitation as well as the trafficking of women and girls. Through an abolitionist approach rooted in women’s rights and human rights, it advocates for strong laws and policies, raises public awareness and supports survivor leaders. For three decades, it has been working to create a world where no woman or girl is ever bought or sold.
Past winners of CATW’s honors are:
• Jimmie Briggs for his visionary works as co-founder of the Man Up Campaign and his groundbreaking advocacy for racial and gender equality.
• JoAnn Neale of Major League Soccer (MLS) for her game-changing efforts to support underserved and vulnerable youth through MLS WORKS.
• William (“Bill”) Silverman and Proskauer Rose LLP for their outstanding commitment to ending human trafficking,
• Lynn and John Savarese won the CATW’s honors for their extraordinary contributions to the movement to stop human trafficking.