Hundreds of thousands across social media react angrily to Premier League LGBT campaign

    The Rainbow Laces campaign ran for two match days in December. It's part of a three-year partnership with Stonewall.

    (CNN)When the Premier League kicked off its 'Rainbow Laces' campaign to support LGBT people this month, English football's highest division probably didn't expect to be flooded with abusive comments and feedback. But that's what happened.

    Right across Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, negative comments and reactions, which were described in one post as "vile," inundated social media feeds.
    One tweet said, "God created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve!" While another widely liked Facebook comment read, "Take politics away from this beautiful sport."
      Other comments aimed at clubs supporting the campaign read, "Crystal PalGay," "SouthGay FC," and "Why are they [Premier League clubs] forcing us to be homosexuals??"
        Whereas in a number of sports and countries, gay athletes have been happy to be open about their sexuality, that hasn't been the case in English football. At the time of writing, in the Premier League there's not a single gay player, who has made his sexual orientation public.
        And when you look at social media, can you blame them, asked Robbie de Santos, who is Director of Sport of Stonewall, which is Britain's leading LGBT charity.
        "In male sport there is a real absence of openly gay or bi men -- we have to create a better environment that is truly LGBT inclusive at all levels," he told CNN Sport.
          This month the Premier League and Stonewall, have collaborated on the 'Rainbow Laces' project — to try and stomp out homophobia in the game.
          'Rainbow Laces' goes far beyond Premier League football, but there is no denying that top-tier English football opens the campaign up to a global audience. The project was inaugurated in 2013.
          A large publicity campaign has been in full swing and the rainbow symbol — synonymous with the LGBT movement — has become ubiquitous across English football's highest division.
          It has cropped up on LED boards, armbands on captains of teams, corner flags and even the laces of footballers over the course of two match weeks.
          In an attempt to provide a snapshot into how the campaign was received across social media, CNN Sport took a look at Premier League clubs, who rebranded logos in LGBT colors on their Facebook profile pages.
          In no way is this an exhaustive demonstration into how 'Rainbow Laces' was treated on social media but arguably it gives some insight into how fans and football followers reacted to soccer endorsement of LGBT rights.
          CNN Sport focused on gauging the number of likes and angry reactions -- because they were the reactions most frequently used by Facebook users.
          It is important to outline that reactions on Facebook, labeled in our graphic as "other reactions," include love hearts, laughing faces, crying faces and shocked faces. Many of the posts we monitored did also receive a high number of these reactions too.

          Offended by the rainbow flag? 'Get a life.'

          Both the Premier League and the various clubs that comprise it have worked hard to plug the campaign effectively. And while 'Rainbow Laces' seems to have been warmly welcomed by a vast majority of people, social media paints a more complex picture.
          In a world of reactions, likes, emojis and hashtags, things can get messy pretty quickly. Just how telling is an angry face emoji?
          Well, put it this way, there is no option to dislike something on Facebook, but if you were aiming to show your dissatisfaction with something, the angry face is probably the route to go down.
          Our analysis found that as many as 35,000 profiles reacted angrily to the wider Premier League's rainbow-themed logo change on Facebook.
          And on a club level, when Aston Villa showed support for the campaign by also re-branding its logo on Facebook, more than half of the reactions were negative. That's almost 60% of the accounts that engaged with the post.
          When Arsenal and Manchester United did the same thing, more than 50,000 accounts also reacted negatively — again with angry faces.
          A club with a smaller fan base, Burnley, also had close to 50% negative reactions.
          In fact, across the 19 Premier League clubs who rebranded its logos in solidarity with the LGBT campaign, there have been more than 200,000 negative reactions on Facebook.