"Divided we are weak. Together we are strong."
Those were the words tweeted by openly gay football star Michael Sam, thanking his University of Missouri family for their support. He posted the message after arriving at the school and seeing a group of Mizzou students surrounding the perimeter in order to block out a Westboro Baptist Church protest.
On Saturday, Sam headed to Columbia, Mo., to join Missouri's 2014 Cotton Bowl champion team in accepting the Cotton Bowl trophy during the Missouri v. Tennessee basketball game, the Kansas City Star reported. The defensive lineman came out as gay on Sunday, Feb. 9.
Unsurprisingly, the Westboro Baptist Church wasn't happy about this, and headed to Mizzou Saturday to protest the athlete.
“They comforted him in his sin, Michael Sam, this past week," WBC's Shirley Phelps-Roper said, per Missouri's KRCG. "They just absolutely went crazy when he announced and told the world he is a filthy pervert and a rebel against God. They fawned all over him.”
— Westboro Baptist (@WBCSays) February 15, 2014
But Mizzou students were prepared to block out the Westboro haters with a wall of love.
"Our hope is for the wall to reflect a unified student body and symbolize a display of love towards our own tiger, Michael Sam," students Kelaney Lakers and Alix Carruth said in a statement to the press, obtained by the Riverfront Times. "We're humbled and a bit overwhelmed by the community's response. This issue is so much bigger than either of us, and we want to do justice to Michael Sam and show him that Mizzou loves him."
That's just what they did.
Hundreds of supporters gathered around Faurot Field Saturday in a sign of solidarity for Sam and in defiance of the 14 Westboro members who showed up, the Columbia Daily Tribune reported. The human wall stretched a half-mile, made up of students, faculty and former Mizzou football players.
— Jacob Farkas (@HighFiveFarkas) February 15, 2014
The act of kindness was not lost on Sam, who tweeted his thanks.
— Michael Sam (@MikeSamFootball) February 16, 2014
Sam graduated from the University of Missouri in December. He is currently eligible for the 2014 NFL Draft and is poised to become the first openly gay, active NFL player ever.