Whether the NFL is ready for an openly gay football player or not, one thing is clear. The University of Missouri is proud and support Michael Sam. According to a report by ESPN on Feb. 16, Sam received a standing ovation when he appeared on the arena video boards during Missouri’s basketball game against Tennessee.
The NFL prospect, who came out as gay during an interview with ESPN’s “Outside the Lines”, has dominated sports headlines over the last week. His coming out story has raised questions and opened dialogue about openly gay athletes in sports. His coming out has also showed a nation the meaning of support and acceptance.
That support and acceptance was on full display on Saturday. As Sam and the football team were honored at halftime for their AT&T Cotton Bowl over Oklahoma State, the Mizzou crowd gave the All-America defensive end a standing ovation.
One supporter, 51-year-old Michelle Carmichael, said the ovation had more meaning than just thousands cheering. It was a moment of symbolism for all that Sam has done for the university.
“Because Michael Sam stood up for Mizzou his entire career and we need to stand up for him,” she said.
The support wasn’t just in the arena. Supporters also showed up outside Mizzou Arena to provide a deflection of a protest from the Westboro Baptist Church as 15 members of the anti-gay church showed up to protest Sam.
The halftime tribute marked the first time Michael Sam has been seen publicly since he made his announcement. Supporters are hopeful that Sam will inspire other athletes to feel comfortable in coming out. They are also hopeful that the NFL is ready to accept a player because of what he does on the field and not shy away from him because of his sexuality.
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