Hundreds of Michael Sam supporters lined up along Stadium Boulevard with frozen fingers and toes on Saturday (Feb. 15). Some brought signs, some brought hand warmers, but one thing they all brought was a united front to stand up for Sam.
Sam, an MU football player and NFL prospect, made national headlines this week when he publicly came out as gay. His team had known for a while, but the New York Times published his story on Sunday. He could become the first openly gay NFL player.
Westboro Baptist Church, a group from Kansas known for its protests, had announced earlier in the week that it would be in Columbia in response to Sam's coming out. The group arrived at the corner of Providence Road and Stadium Boulevard around 1:30 p.m.
But the counter-protestors were ready before they got there. The movement to support Sam had been organized through a Facebook event, "One Wall, One Mizzou. #StandWithSam."
“When we heard that the Westboro Baptist Church was coming to Mizzou to protest Michael Sam, we wanted to make sure that our values as Tigers, as Mizzou students, were reaffirmed -- that we don’t support that kind of behavior," said MU student Kat Savic, who attended the counter-protest.
Columbia Police were present to monitor traffic during the protest, and to keep people on their respective sides.
Westboro Baptist Church packed up its protest at 2:45 p.m., and crowds of Sam’s supporters cheered.