16 September 2020
Social media changed the game when it came to the ability for athletes to connect with the fanbase. In the days prior to the emergence of sites like Twitter and Instagram, players were required to use the media that covered their team to get their message out to the people.
Often, that message could prove different than its original intent as it passed through first the reporter penning the story, as well as the editor deemed with the task of handling the written copy.
Social media changed that landscape. Players could eliminate the filter that their message previously passed through. They cut out the middleman and went directly to the general public with their story.
In some cases, that’s proven entertaining. Occasionally, it’s ended up creating controversy. Lately, as the Black Lives Matter movement grew in prevalence around the globe, athletes are using their social media platforms to help support causes seeking to create institutional change.
Instagram seems to be the social media channel of choice for current NFL players. Let’s look at some of the more prominent football personalities on the site and the number of followers they generate.
Dak Prescott (1.9 million)
The Dallas Cowboys quarterback employs his Instagram feed to provide glimpses into his life at work and at play. There’s also a serious side to it. He’s discussed the death of George Floyd and his own battles with mental health following his brother’s suicide.
Richard Sherman (2.2 million)
The All-Pro cornerback for the San Francisco 49ers has played in three Super Bowl games. He’s gained the most notoriety for his ability to trash talk opponents, especially opposing receivers he’s designated to cover during a game. However, Sherman also utilizes his Instagram feed for good. His official charity, the Richard Sherman Foundation, also known as the Blanket Coverage Foundation, is on the social media site and he’s been able to generate community outreach programs to help food banks and underprivileged children.
Lamar Jackson (2.7 million)
The reigning NFL MVP offers a window into his business time under center for the Baltimore Ravens. But Jackson is a man with a playful side and that’s everywhere to be seen, from video of him eating a family size Cinnamon Toast Crunch right out of the box to taking a spin in a zero gravity skydiving simulator.
Ezekiel Elliott (2.9 million)
See Zeke catch fish. See Zeke eat Doritos. Watch him run over defenders while carrying the ball for the NFL Cowboys and in his college days with the Ohio State Buckeyes.
Patrick Mahomes (3.7 million)
Sure, 3.7 million is an awful lot of followers. But this is a reigning Super Bowl champion and the 2018 NFL MVP. It just seems like more people should be following the Kansas City Chiefs star. On top of that, Mahomes shares much of his life with his followers. There’s a 2013 tweet from him wondering what it must feel like to be the Super Bowl-winning QB superimposed over him holding the Lombardi Trophy.
Rob Gronkowski (3.9 million)
From WWE wrestler to extra in the Entourage movie, does any NFLer live a better life than Gronk?
J.J. Watt (4 million)
One of a trio of brothers in the NFL, Watt is a three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year who is also known for his humanitarian work. And how many NFLers can boast of a post of them being hugged by Mick Jagger?
Russell Wilson (4.6 million)
He already has the best handle of any NFLer – dangerusswilson – and he shares plenty of photos of his adorable kids.
Cam Newton (4.8 million)
Why you need to follow the unbeaten QB of the New England Patriots is summed up in this post: “Dear Haters, I have so much more for you to be mad at. Just be patient.”
Tom Brady (7.7 million)
Instagram was the forum that the six-time Super Bowl winner chose to say goodbye after 20 years at the helm of the Patriots when Brady decided to sign with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Odell Beckham Jr (14.2 million)
OBJ sums up his Instagram popularity with his tagline: “I am who I am.” And just like Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates, with OBJ, you never know what you’re going to get. That’s why we watch.