The Cincinnati Bengals — making their first AFC championship appearance since 1988 — have the most supportive fans online of LGBTQ communities, according to a survey that examined 2,930 posts on Reddit NFL forums.
In Bengals subreddits, 60% of the comments from posts from September 2020 to September 2021 were positive toward the LGBTQ community. The other online communities that posted more than 50% positive comments were the Jacksonville Jaguars, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Buffalo Bills, San Francisco 49ers and Las Vegas Raiders, according to the survey for the ticket site Tickpick.
The five least supportive online fan bases were the Los Angeles Rams and Carolina Panthers at 29.4%, followed by the Atlanta Falcons, New York Jets and Dallas Cowboys.
Here is the breakdown of all 32 teams:
Reddit forums are only one of myriad online meeting points for NFL fans, but analyzing 2,900 comments can provide a glimpse of how many fans feel. The survey used an analytical tool called VADER to analyze each Reddit post. “VADER recognizes words and phrases and connects them to polarity (positive/negative) and intensity (strength) of emotion to return several different sentiment scores: positive, neutral, negative, and a compound score,” according to the survey notes.
There is only one openly gay NFL player, Carl Nassib of the Raiders, who came out in June. The Reddit analysis sampled posts and comments from Sept. 9, 2020, to Sept. 9, 2021, so it included nearly three month of comments after Nassib came out.
In a separate survey of 1,000 sports fans for Tickpick (including 19% who identified as LGBTQ), fans of the New England Patriots (69%), Carolina Panthers (64%) and Kansas City Chiefs (64%) said they would be very or extremely supportive if a player was gay or bisexual.
Another interesting finding from the survey of fans was the perception of how each of the major U.S. men’s pro leagues (NFL, NBA, NHL, MLB and MLS) was in support of LGBTQ people.
People thought MLS was most supportive (56% of respondents agreed), versus 43% for the NHL, 41% for the NBA and 37% each for the NFL and MLB.
The survey also found that 61% of respondents say the NFL needs to be more inclusive, while 55% want their team to be more openly supportive of LGBTQ+ people. “Most of these respondents also supported a number of specific initiatives in another survey data set,” the survey found. “For instance, 66% of respondents supported adding consequences for homophobic and transphobic behavior to NFL players’ Code of Conduct.”
In summary, the survey authors conclude: “Generally speaking, LGBTQ+ support across the NFL and its associated fanbases certainly exists and appears to be growing, but the question remains as to what pace. ... If there’s anything you should take from this article, it’s that a majority of NFL fans believe the league needs to be more inclusive and supportive of LGBTQ+ people. It’s also worth keeping in mind that NFL teams have drastically increased their pro-LGBTQ+ tweet numbers since 2019.”
The surveys, though not necessarily scientifically valid, are nonetheless a solid attempt at gauging what fans are saying about LGBTQ issues in sports and the report is fun to read.