Michael Sam gets standing ovation at Mizzou amid Westboro protest
(CNN) — When 14 members of the anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church showed up at the University of Missouri Saturday to protest the presence of openly gay football player Michael Sam at an NCAA basketball game against Tennessee, they were in for a bit of a surprise.
Sam, who acknowledged he is gay on February 9, has received a great deal of support from around the globe, but his fellow students were about to go one step further.
Missouri students Kelaney Lakers and Alix Carruth organized an event called “One Wall, One Mizzou,” which drew hundreds of people to the campus Saturday afternoon for the purpose of supporting Sam. According to the group event’s Facebook page, the students planned to form a human wall to block off the Westboro protesters.
“The focus of this wall is unification behind Sam to represent this school as One,” the Facebook page stated. A total of 4,952 people responded to the page.
The Westboro protesters had announced that they planned to show up at 1:30 p.m., so the Mizzou students assembled at 1 p.m. and formed a long human chain that surrounded the campus. Many wore the school colors of black and gold and carried handmade signs that used the hashtag #StandwithSam. By the time Westboro protestors did arrive, all they could do was wave their signs, because they couldn’t get close to the school.
HLN affiliate KMIZ reported that police were on hand for the event, but that the Westboro protesters and the event attendees did not have any negative interactions.
“We’re thankful that both groups kept it professional in the fact of how they expressed their points of view,” university police department Capt. Brian Weime told KMIZ. “There were no problems or issues between the groups which is good.”
University Vice Chancellor Dr. Catherine C. Scroggs, who also attended the event, told HLN that she was very happy with the way students conducted themselves.
“The way they addressed it made us proud,” Scroggs said. “The Missouri Students Association was also on hand, giving out ‘Stand with Sam’ buttons to administrators and students. They ran out and they had a thousand, so we know at least that many people were there!”
The university tweeted photos from the event from their official account:
Tweet: @Mizzou The line of Mizzou students stretched from Providence to nearly Champions Drive at its peak. #StandWithSam
Tweet: @Mizzou #Mizzou students linked arms and sang our fight songs and the alma mater. #StandWithSam
Sam showed his gratitude by tweeting to supporters: @MikeSamFootball Thank you for all of my Mizzou family for your support. Divided we are weak, Together We are Strong. #OneMizzou
At halftime of the basketball game, the school presented its football team with the Cotton Bowl trophy. Sam raised it high, to a standing ovation.
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