Facebook’s Top Post This Week? Ron DeSantis Banning Trans Athletes On First Day Of Pride
Among Facebook’s most popular posts this week was vehement praise for Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ (R) signing of a controversial bill banning trans female athletes from playing girls’ and women’s sports, which drew further outrage from LGBTQ+ activists for its timing on the first day of Pride Month.
Evangelical leader Franklin Graham, who is one of the most popular conservatives on Facebook, posted a link to a story about the bill thanking DeSantis for his action.
His praise of the Republican governor became the top-performing link-based post on the platform since May 30, according to data from CrowdTangle, an analytics tool owned by Facebook.
Sharing an article from Fox News about the new law, Graham, the president and CEO of Christian relief organization Samaritan’s Purse, lauded DeSantis for “protecting girls’ athletic programs in the public schools in his state” to over 414,000 reactions, 38,500 shares and 30,100 comments.
In the post, Graham also echoed a part of the speech made by DeSantis while signing the law in which he declared “girls are going to play girls’ sports and boys are going to play boys’ sports” in Florida, suggesting transgender girls and women do not qualify as female.
The law says athletic teams or sports that “are designated for females are open to females,” DeSantis continued, adding: “We’re going based off biology not based off ideology.”
The popularity of the post is a reflection of the political skew of Facebook, which consistently sees conservative-leaning sources outperforming mainstream news sites.
The signing of the law last Tuesday immediately drew backlash from LGBTQ+ activists who decried it as a targeted attack at the onset of LGBTQ+ Pride Month. Sam Brinton, the vice president of advocacy and government affairs for LGBTQ suicide prevention organization The Trevor Project labeled the signing of the law “unconscionable,” explaining: “This group of young people desperately needs more support, not to be further marginalized and attacked by those in positions of power.”
DeSantis, meanwhile, insisted the timing of the bill had nothing to do with the month-long celebration of the LGTBQ+ community, saying “it’s not a message to anything other than saying we’re going to protect fairness in women’s sports.”
The popularity of this post—and the lack of any criticism of the law among Facebook’s top trending—gives some insight into how a good chunk of the social media site’s engaged, news-reading audience sides in the ongoing debate over transgender athletes participating in sports (fewer than 400 users reacted with either an angry or sad emoji to the article). Republican states have been pushing legislation, with at least seven signing into law new bans, as they argue trans female athletes have an unfair athletic advantage over cisgender girls and women. Meanwhile, Democrats have largely opposed these policy changes, deeming them discriminatory against transgender students. Recent polling shows the public is divided on the issue, with 40% of U.S. adults in support of trans female athletes competing in women’s sports in college and 42% opposing it, according to an April Morning Consult survey. In that poll, the division was very much driven by political affiliation as 57% of Democrats said they supported transgender women playing in women’s collegiate sports, while just 18% of Republicans said the same.
While Facebook’s top-performing links consistently spawn from conservative pundits and publications, the most popular videos, photos and statuses on the platform typically skew apolitical. For example, this week’s top post across all of Facebook in the U.S. was a video of a woman pushing a bear off a ledge to save her dogs. This video from NowThis accrued more than 1.31 million reactions, 139,000 reactions and 557,000 shares.