The University of Missouri is showing a lot of love for Michael Sam. The university posted this awesome photo to its official Twitter account
on Monday with the following message: "Support for Sam at Memorial Stadium. #OneMizzou."
This show of support followed the former defensive lineman's announcement to the world that he is gay.
Barring another player coming out before next season, Sam is likely to be the first openly gay player in the National Football League. It's still a little hard to fathom that he'd be the only publicly known gay player in the year 2014, but a little less so after hearing stories like that of former Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe, who told Desdspin that special teams coach Mike Priefer had made homophobic comments to him
, and who believes that his support of same-sex marriage rights led to his dismissal from the team.
Sam, who was named co-defensive player of the year in the SEC, still needs to get drafted. And he has been projected anywhere from a mid- to late-round pick. Sam joins a handful of other openly gay pro athletes, including ex-NBA player Jason Collins, WWE wrestler Darren Young and WNBA player Brittney Griner, all of whom came out last year.
University of Missouri alumni should feel nothing but pride in the way Mizzou has handled the situation. Tigers football coach Gary Pinkel released a statement Sunday in support of Sam.
"We're really happy for Michael that he's made the decision to announce this, and we're proud of him and how he represents Mizzou," Pinkel said in the statement, which was released by the university's athletics department. "Michael is a great example of just how important it is to be respectful of others, he's taught a lot of people here first-hand that it doesn't matter what your background is, or your personal orientation, we're all on the same team and we all support each other. If Michael doesn't have the support of his teammates like he did this past year, I don't think there's any way he has the type of season he put together."
If you're wondering how it affected the Tigers locker room, it didn't.
"This past August, Michael was very direct with the team when he decided to let everyone know that he is gay," Pinkel said in the statement. "We discussed how to deal with that from a public standpoint, and ultimately Michael decided that he didn't want that to be the focal point of the season. He wanted to focus on football and not do anything to add pressure for him or for his teammates, and I think that's a great example of the kind of person he is. We left it that whenever he felt the time was right, however he wanted to make the announcement, that we had his back and we'd be right there with him.
"We're very proud of Michael and the courage he has displayed for coming out. We look forward to following his career, and the success he's going to have."
The Tigers finished the season 12-2 with a victory in the Cotton Bowl.
For more on Sam's story, here's a New York Times
' piece, which includes a video of Sam discussing his announcement.