One hash tag brought thousands of fans to block Westboro Baptist Church from demonstrating against Michael Sam.
Last week, Missouri football sensation Michael Sam publicly came out as gay, but what truly made recent news headlines was the social media marketing campaign that fans created in order to support the player, particularly against the inevitable efforts of homophobes.
This was particularly true of the gay bashing Westboro Baptist Church, which quickly announced intentions to protest.
Not long after Sam came out, the Westboro Baptist Church revealed that it intended to travel the three hours from Topeka, Kansas, to Columbia, Missouri, in order to protest the player. Their intention was to arrive at 1:30 pm at the Mizzou Arena, where the local basketball game would begin at 3 pm, hosting Tennessee’s team. It was in this area that social media marketing played a vital role in counteracting the impact of the protest and in showing that the WBC did not reflect the feelings of the fans.
The social media marketing campaign started with a Facebook page and a hashtag.
The page was called “One Wall, One Mizzou”, and the hashtag was #StandWithSam. This was the very heart of an effort to organize a counter-protest to whatever the extremists from the Westboro church would bring with them. From that one page, on its own, there were thousands upon thousands of visits, and a tremendous 4,887 people didn’t just have a look, they also agreed to show up at the arena, and stand for what they knew was right.
Moreover, those people then told their friends and shared the hashtag and the plans to show their support to Michael Sam and other members of the LGBT community across the country. This generated an attendance far greater than the number that clicked the “attending” button on the Facebook page.
Did the WBC protesters show up? Indeed they did. However, they could barely be found among the many thousands of fans who had seen the social media marketing campaign and who had shown up to create a solid and impenetrable wall of fans. Inside the stadium, Mizzou fans gave Michael Sam a massive standing ovation. The player’s career with the Tigers is over, and he will now likely be part of the NFL draft. Assuming that he makes a team, he will become the first NFL player to be openly gay, and it is very clear that the fans are ready to support him all the way.