National media descend on Columbia in light of Michael Sam announcement

Monday, February 10, 2014 | 12:23 p.m. CST; updated 3:56 p.m. CST, Monday, February 10, 2014
ESPN reporter Mark Schwarz provides live coverage of Michael Sam's story from Columbia, while Dan Sutter films Monday outside Lee Hills Hall in downtown Columbia.

COLUMBIA—It’s not every day that a call from a New York Times reporter interrupts an interview at MU's LGBTQ Center on a Monday morning.

It’s not every day that Jesse Hall is in the background of a televised live shot on ESPN.

Then again, it’s not every day that former Missouri star defensive end Michael Sam tells the world he is gay, projecting Sam to be the first openly gay active player in NFL history.

Sam’s announcement Sunday initiated a social media rapid fire, garnering tweets to Sam from the White House and causing ESPN reporter Mark Schwarz to fly to Missouri on Sunday to cover the live reaction on campus that night.

“It’s funny,” Schwarz said. “I flew to St. Louis yesterday afternoon. I landed around 4:30 p.m. And I drove probably over the speed limit for about two hours, and I had just enough time to get here for our 7 o’clock live shot when we broke the news.”

Much to Schwarz's surprise, though, the scene in Columbia is a calm one just 15 or so hours after Sam's announcement. At least compared to the attention the story is still getting online.

“I think just how unspectacular this entire thing is to everybody,” Schwarz said. “I mean, nobody is sitting here with their mouth wide open saying, ‘Oh my God, I can’t believe this guy did that. He’s gonna ruin his life. He’s gonna destroy his draft status.’ Everybody seems really matter-of-fact about it.

“A lot of the people, even non-football players, seem like they’ve known about it for a long time and they were just wondering maybe what took so long. Everyone’s supportive. It just says a lot about this day and age. I don’t think it would have been like that even 10, 15 years ago.” 

As the week progresses, Schwarz expects to stay in Columbia and hopes to speak Missouri coaches and athletes as well as continue to report reaction around campus. 

Supervising editor is Mark Selig.

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