Openly gay Missouri DE Michael Sam receives standing ovation at basketball game
Sam received a standing ovation from the crowd as he appeared on the arena video boards during the Missouri's basketball game against Tennessee.
“Michael Sam stood up for Mizzou his entire career and we need to stand up for him,” said 51-year-old Missouri fan Michelle Carmichael.
The NFL prospect, who could become the first openly gay player in the league later blew a kiss to the student section and mingled with the fans. Sam, along with his football teammates and coaches, was on hand for a halftime ceremony honoring the Tigers’ Cotton Bowl victory over Oklahoma State.
Among his crowd of supporters, many wore shirts with “We Are All CoMo Sexuals” written on them. The shirt plays off the nickname of Columbia, Mo., where Sam first told his teammates in August that he was gay. Sam publically made the announcement about his sexuality only last weekend.
However, the excitement surrounding Sam’s announcement eventually died down on campus after Missouri coach Gary Pinkel and athletic director Mike Alden announced their support for the 6-foot-2, 255-pound player. Student body president Mason Schara, who posted on Twitter earlier this week that he is also gay, said that the University will always remain supportive of Sam.
"The majority of us knew and we just didn't think anything of it because that's just who we are here," Schara said. "The fact that there's been such a positive reaction across the nation is what sparked us to be here today."
A Facebook event created in support of Sam this week called for the community to gather outside Mizzou Arena on Saturday. While nearly 5,000 people were expected to attend, numbers were a little low due to the 30-degree chill.
Supporters of Sam aren’t concerned that his draft status might be affected by the public announcement of his sexuality, saying that the player should be judged based on his performance on the field. So far, the overwhelmingly positive reaction to Sam’s announcement is encouraging – and is an indication that Sam’s joining an NFL team won’t pose any distractions. The additional benefit for the NFL team drafting Sam will be that they will instantly gain a large fanbase, consisting of thousands of Sam’s fans in Missouri.
In the long run, supporters of Sam hope that his story will inspire other athletes to feel comfortable enough to come out, because they will always find the support that they so much need.
"I am hopeful that the NFL won't care about something like this," Schara added. "It doesn't matter about his sexual orientation. He's a great player and everyone would be lucky to have him."