As Pride Month Wraps, Pro Sports Wrestles With the Problem of Hateful Fans Online
Adweek covers Respondology helping global brands eliminate hatred in their social streams.
When pride spells trouble.
There’s no time of year when that ugliness is quite as apparent as it is in June, Pride Month for LGBTQ+ people, and a time when most teams and leagues fly the rainbow colors and take publicly affirmative stances toward the community.
According to data from Respondology, a maker of social-comment moderation software, the number of online comments it classifies as “hateful and offensive” rises by 247% between May and June.
Broken down to the raw data, it looks like this: The total number of fan comments posted to professional sports teams’ and leagues’ social platforms averages 200,000 per month. In April, hateful posts numbered 17,756. That figure rose to 18,805 by May. And in June, comments classified as bigoted and hateful tallied to 46,611.
Actual (and deleted) examples of those comments include: “Stop posting rainbow colors. No one cares about lesbos and faeries!” And: “LGBT lives don’t matter.” And: “Nothing screams hockey like celebrating anal sex! F**k that gay sh*t!”
How to deal with such a volume of rancor is a critical issue for both teams and the leagues they belong to. And while it’s not a subject they’re eager to discuss—several of the professional sports organizations contacted for this story either declined to comment or did not respond—those that did open up were united on a central point: While keeping their platforms free of hate speech is a never-ending game of Whac-A-Mole, it’s an undertaking that’s essential.
Increasingly, however, brands have been turning to third-party vendors to help flag comments they don’t want on their social platforms—the sheer volume of posts leaving them little other choice. Any number of companies including Hootsuite, Sprout Social and Meltwater offer social listening tools. Respondology’s software, in particular, is widely in use by sports brands including the NFL, NBA, NHL and Nascar.
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