The Most Hated (And Loved) NFL Players – According To 8.5 Million Tweets

Ahead of the kick-off of the 2022-2023 NFL season, SportsHandle decided to take a deep dive into the worrying depths of Twitter. We set out with the goal of finding out how the best of the best athletes in one of the biggest and most beloved sports were targets of online abuse/negative comments on Twitter.

We scraped more than ten million tweets and extracted almost 8.5 million tweets in English directed at the top NFL players from the 2021-22 season kickoff (10 September 2021) up until the 15th of August 2022. On these tweets, we conducted sentiment analysis. This allowed us to conclude which players were targeted the most by negative tweets and who was getting the most ‘love’ from the fans out there.

NFL's most hated players

Some of the key findings

  • The majority of tweets analysed were deemed Neutral. Out of the almost 8.5 million tweets analysed, 43.5% were neutral towards any player, 39.5% were positive towards any player, and 17% were negative/abusive/insulting towards a player.
  • All 80 players included in this analysis were targeted by negative tweets.
  • Arizona Cardinals safety Budda Baker received the highest percentage of negative tweets, with 23.59% of tweets directed at him being deemed as negative.
  • Los Angeles Chargers offensive tackle Rashawn Slater was the least targeted player by negative tweets with only 10.37% of tweets being negative.
  • The 5 most frequently used insults/negative slurs are “rat”, “cow”, “fuck”, “shit”, and “bad”.
  • Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers were the players with the most mentions, both overall and negative. They combined for a total of 378,823 negative tweets, which is 26,64% of all negative tweets directed towards these 80 players.

Looking at the list of players, the following table will display who received the greatest number of abusive tweets:

PlayerTotal number of Negative tweetsPercentage of tweets which are negativeTeam
Tom Brady214,58617.06%Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Aaron Rodgers164,23719.61%Green Bay Packers
Antonio Brown70,54822.21%FA
Deshaun Watson67,50819.40%Cleveland Browns
Josh Allen67,00617.40%Buffalo Bills
Joe Burrow66,28614.82%Cincinnati Bengals
Russell Wilson63,35215.65%Denver Broncos
Lamar Jackson63,19418.11%Baltimore Ravens
Odell Beckham Jr38,86212.82%FA
Tyreek Hill38,64917%Miami Dolphins

Out of the 8,367,493 tweets scraped, 1,422,270 (16.99%) were deemed as negative. These 10 players ‘accounted’ for 854,228 (60,06%) of all the negative tweets scraped.

This list of players contains the players with the highest percentage of tweets which are deemed as negative:

PlayerTotal number of Negative tweetsPercentage of tweets which are negativeTeam
Budda Baker2,05823.59%Arizona Cardinals
Antonio Brown70,54822.21%FA
Tyron Smith2,77322.12%Dallas Cowboys
Alvin Kamara5,92220.90%New Orleans Saints
Darren Waller3,99020.63%Las Vegas Raiders
Aaron Jones10,49320.36%Green Bay Packers
Dak Prescott14,65220.14%Dallas Cowboys
Patrick Maholmes34,34419.83%Kansas City Cheifs
Dalvin Cook10,26419.81%Minnesota Vikings
Aaron Rodgers164,23719.61%Green Bay Packers

It might not come as a surprise that a very outspoken and controversial player as Antonio Brown was the target of a lot of negative tweets and he ranks highly in both “total number of tweets” and “percentage of tweets which are negative”. 

The following table shows the players with the lowest percentage of negative tweets directed at them. Considering the high amount of negative tweets targeting Odell Beckham Jr, it might come as surprise that he’s on this list, but the sheer percentage of the negative tweets is low.

PlayerTotal number of Negative tweetsPercentage of tweets which are negativeTeam
Rashawn Slater65210.37Los Angeles Chargers
Austin Ekeler2,51111.46Los Angeles Chargers
Aidan Hutchinson7,07212.6Detroit Lions
Odell Beckham Jr38,86212.82FA
Joel Bitonio55612.93Cleveland Browns
Jordan Mailata1,26213Philadelphia Eagles
Terron Armstead1,44413.38Miami Dolphins
Kevin Byard2,78713.45Tennessee Titans
Creed Humphrey2,57713.99Kansas City Chiefs
Allen Robinson7,81314.05Los Angeles Rams


We used an API (Application Programming Interface) to scrape 10 Million tweets related to NFL Players. We extracted only English tweets (8,637,493 tweets) and cleaned the data using Python programming language. The data cleansing consisted of the process of removing URLs, Hashtags, Mentions, Punctuation, Duplicates, Null Values, and special characters from tweets. Once the data was cleaned we used NLP (Natural Language Processing) techniques, TextBlob Python Library to be more specific, to analyse the sentiments of the data.

TextBlob returns the polarity of a sentence. Polarity lies between [-1,1], where -1 defines a negative sentiment, and +1 defines a positive sentiment. Once we had all cleaned tweets labelled as positive or negative, we grouped the data by date and player and calculated the percentage of negative and positive tweets for each date and each player.

The players on this list represent the top 75 players in the NFL according to CBS Sports Senior Writer Pete Prisco, but also include five players that were assumed to be targeted by a high number of negative tweets. These five players were Deshaun Watson, Antonio Brown, Odell Beckham Jr, Ndamukong Suh and Ezekiel Elliott. This brought the total number of players up to 80.

The full data-set can be found here.