COLUMBIA — The morning after former Missouri football player Michael Sam publicly announced he is gay, the iconic rock "M" in Memorial Stadium was joined by a snowy "S" and "A."
"S-A-M" has become a new icon for MU, and there has been no shortage of student support for the former defensive end.
"Michael Sam is a hero for Mizzou, the NFL and the LGBT community," MU junior Ryan Walker said while doing homework at the Student Center. "We are all behind him."
MU sophomore Stuart Curry thinks the media coverage of Sam's coming out represents a bigger problem in our society: distraction.
"This isn't a story," Curry said. "Coming out isn't an achievement. It doesn't deserve praise or scorn. He's simply an excellent athlete."
Although Sam's announcement could affect his NFL prospects, MU sophomore Maria Di Bianca applauded the star lineman's courage and believes his sexuality shouldn't sway potential employers.
"They should focus on his character and talents," Di Bianca said. "As human beings, we aren't labeled with our sexual orientation on our foreheads. We are distinguished by our character."
Di Bianca, like other students, said she was disgusted when she heard the Westboro Baptist Church had announced on Twitter that its members would protest Sam's sexuality this Saturday. The church did not announce the protest's location.
MU juniors Kelaney Lakers and Alix Carruth created a Facebook event called One Wall, One Mizzou to counter Westboro's protest. By Monday afternoon, the event had already garnered 2,500 supporters.
Attendees will form a "human wall" to show support for Sam and block out the Westboro protesters. It is a peaceful method of counterprotest, according to the event page, and members of the wall will not physically or verbally interact with the protestors.
A human wall was used when Westboro decided to picket Spc. Sterling Wyatt's Columbia funeral in the summer of 2012.
In a news release, Lakers and Carruth said they were "humbled and a bit overwhelmed" by the community's response.
"Our hope is for the wall to reflect a unified student body and symbolize a display of love towards our own Tiger, Michael Sam," the news release said.
Twitter users have posted mostly supportive tweets.
OMG WE LOVE YOU MICHAEL SAM #MizzouMade— Daniel Stribling (@DanielStribling) February 10, 2014
The Missourian has also aggregated more tweets about Sam in a collection of messages.