Posted October 04, 2013

Report: Ole Miss players disrupt campus theater with ‘borderline hate speech’

Ole Miss Rebels
Ole Miss Rebels

Ole Miss players reportedly heckled performers in an on-campus theater production. (Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)

Ole Miss football players heckled theater performers with homosexual slurs during a show put on by Ole Miss’ theater department on Tuesday night, the school’s student newspaper, The Daily Mississippian, reports.

The play, entitled “The Laramie Project,” was based on the story of Matthew Shepard, an openly gay male student at the University of Wyoming who was murdered in Laramie County, Wyo., in 1999. The players in attendance reportedly became so disruptive that the performers had trouble finishing the play.

According to the play’s director and theater faculty member Rory Ledbetter, some audience members used derogatory slurs like “fag” and heckled both cast members and the characters they were portraying for their body types and sexual orientations. Ledbetter said the audience’s reactions included “borderline hate speech.”

“I am the only gay person on the cast,” junior theater major Garrison Gibbons said. “I played a gay character in the show, and to be ridiculed like that was something that really made me realize that some people at Ole Miss and in Mississippi still can’t accept me for who I am.”

According to The Daily Mississippian, many of the players were in attendance as a requirement for a freshman-level theater course. Reports indicated that players were “taking pictures of cast members while making fun of them, talking on their cell phones, hollering at the females in the cast and talking to other audience members during the acts.”

After the Ole Miss athletic department was informed of the players’ behavior, the team members in attendance were asked to apologize to the cast after the show. One undisclosed player offered an apology for the entire group.

“I have been acting for seven or eight years, and a lot of that has been in front of young children,” sophomore theater major Rachel Staton said. “That was by far the worst audience I’ve ever performed in front of. It wasn’t all football players, but they seemed to be the leaders. If I can go support and respect the football team in their stadium, I feel like they should be able to support and respect me and my fellow cast members when we are doing a show.”

The Ole Miss athletic department offered no comment to The Daily Mississippian, but an athletic department official did issue an apology via email to the theater department.

On Thursday, Rebels coach Hugh Freeze issued a statement regarding the allegations on Twitter.

Ole Miss chancellor Dan Jones and athletic director Ross Bjork also issued a statement Thursday afternoon (via USA Today):

While we work to determine with certainty who disrupted the Laramie Project play, we want everyone within our university community and beyond to know that we strongly condemn the behavior exhibited Tuesday night. As a member of the Ole Miss family, each of us has a responsibility to be accountable for our actions, and these individuals will be held accountable. Our investigation will determine the degree to which any and all students were involved.

As a first step to addressing behavior at the performance Tuesday night, we will meet today with the freshman student-athletes (from various sports) who attended the play and have a dialogue about what happened, about our university-wide commitment to inclusivity and civility, and about the important role they play in representing the university. It is clear that some students badly misrepresented the culture of this university. From there, we will work with Student-Affairs and the Bias Incident Response Team to determine the facts and appropriate next steps.

Incidents like this remind all educators that our job is to prepare our students to be leaders in life during their years on campus and after they graduate from Ole Miss. This behavior by some students reflects poorly on all of us, and it reinforces our commitment to teaching inclusivity and civility to young people who still have much to learn. We will be engaging our student-athletes with leaders on the subject of individuality and tolerance, so we can further enforce life lessons and develop them to their fullest potential.

On behalf of our 22,000 students, our faculty, and our staff, we apologize.

112 comments
SteveBerger
SteveBerger

You know what. Most people,are not anti gay. Do whatever you want. But we are sick and tired of hearing about it. Gay this, gay that. Give me a break. Just chill gays. Its just a matter of time until people get sick and tired of hearing them and there will be a backlash. I certainly do not condone such action. But just wait and see.

Citizendan
Citizendan

I've never heard of young males acting boorishly before, particularly when forced to watch a gay based play that manipulates the truth.  Is there similar outrage when the football players are booed at the game?

Chris P1
Chris P1

"We certainly do not condone any actions that offend or hurt people in any way.'

 Put your money where your mouth is, coach. Kick 'em off the team.

Yeah...like THAT will happen!!!

ToddBennett
ToddBennett

No sorry, they were just bored and watching themselves on film from the Alabama game.

Hola
Hola

Isn't Ole Miss in Mississippi and in the South?  That explains everything.

BryanCustard
BryanCustard

Took the same class my freshman year in college with the requirement to see all of the school's theatre productions for the semester in which I had the class. I was forced to see three shows, two of which I did not care for, and a third of which featured a fictional storyline similar to the Matthew Shepard case. I found them all to be stupid, uninformative drivel that never made me a better person, or provided me with a better understanding of the arts; however, I still managed to keep my damn mouth shut, watch the play, and respected the audience members, faculty, and students who put hours into putting on the performance. It's not necessarily about the gay slurs to me, its about being respectful human beings. Honestly, any of my players that pulled something like this would not only run a couple extra MILES at practice, but would also have signed themselves up for a voluntary redshirt, because he would not play for me the rest of the season.

Action
Action

I think a few of those players should be suspended for the A&M game.

Robert96
Robert96

Well..........they are, among other things: "Fags"............."homosexuals"............queer..............sissies.............heterosexuals............straight..................normal............average.................homosexuals...............lisbos.......................So what?      Life is what it is..........................live and enjoy.

MichaelSullivan2
MichaelSullivan2

First off, if they are on scholarship, they are told what classes to take. The instructor who decided to REQUIRE attendance at this play is a buffoon, to put it kindly. The guys were rebeling against having to attend this sort of performance (since play is based on bad facts, he was not killed for being gay). Of course they should have simply walked out but instead they acted the fool. Make em run extra laps at practice.

RickStevens
RickStevens

Mississippi and also football players... what a combination; can you get much dumber than that?

Please let them leave the union next time they ask. Stupidity is a virtue there. 

ElvisHitler
ElvisHitler

Bunch of classless thugs thinking they're tough.

deadchrislane
deadchrislane

WHY DON'T FAGGOTS KEEP THEIR DISGUSTING PERVERSIONS TO THEM SELVES ????

THE WORM WILL TURN and the FAGGOTS WILL BE DEALT WITH !!!!!



SayAgain
SayAgain

Not much changes in Oxford.

Mario4
Mario4

I  would of had to puke during this gay loving parade. I think there is a deeper issue here.   Sorry  gays, just do what you want to do, keep it to yourself.  As far as Ole Miss. goes why do you have to force kids to sit and watch this, I would walked out and said it goes against my christian beliefs.  You mean to to tell me there is no other event to make a theatrical play about.  Just another way to push a liberal agenda on you and shove it down your throat.

brianf1234
brianf1234

Yet another case of the liberal media pushing their agenda.  Let's make an example out of these guys!

JonPaley
JonPaley

Mississippi is still backward and stupid. I was hoping they might come around and be part of the rest of the country but I guess not. Let them secede and go back to the hole they crawled out of.

BlueZoo
BlueZoo

What do you expect in a state where the KKK still have public meetings wearing their white sheets?  Hate speech is a right down there!

NoQNoSuperBowl
NoQNoSuperBowl

Yelling slurs at people is the behavior of an ignorant third grader, not a tough man. Real men don't need to do that.

Hola
Hola

@Chris P1 Oh please.  It's not like they killed or robbed or beat up someone.  If this was the math team, I doubt you would be suggesting that they be kick out of school.  Give them a failing grade on the assignment.

bobinpowell
bobinpowell

@Robert96 I think you missed the point.  Among other things, I guess that makes you a moron, idiot, dope, dolt, fool, ....

Rob16
Rob16

@MichaelSullivan2 He wasn't killed for being gay? I guess that is why his murder inspired a major law to be passed considering murder based on sexual orientation as a hate-crime? Whatever your opinion is, please don't state it as fact...because it is nothing more than your opinion.  Further, you seem like a homophobic meat head and should avoid the theatre where you will be required to use your brain.

BillToscano
BillToscano

@MichaelSullivan2 Buffoon. In my mind, he was trying to teach them something.

It failed.

(And honestly, a Theater 101 class is a serious guy course, and it almost always requires attending school plays, and you do not know from year to year what the plays are gonna be.)

If you cannot sit down and shut up for two hours, your self-discipline suck.

BryanCustard
BryanCustard

@MichaelSullivan2 Took the same class my freshman year in college with the requirement to see all of the school's theatre productions for the semester in which I had the class. I was forced to see three shows, two of which I did not care for, and a third of which featured a fictional storyline similar to the Matthew Shepard case. I found them all to be stupid, uninformative drivel that never made me a better person, or provided me with a better understanding of the arts; however, I still managed to keep my damn mouth shut, watch the play, and respected the audience members, faculty, and students who put hours into putting on the performance. It's not necessarily about the gay slurs to me, its about being respectful human beings. Honestly, any of my players that pulled something like this would not only run a couple extra MILES at practice, but would also have signed themselves up for a voluntary redshirt, because he would not play for me the rest of the season.

MandyMcGeheeLetort
MandyMcGeheeLetort

@RickStevens There are plenty of intelligent people who live in Mississippi! We wear shoes, speak in complete sentences and have our teeth! The fact that you ASSume things about people you do not know speaks volumes! You will also find that not all of us feel the same as these football players from Ole Miss! Whether I agree with homosexuality or not, it does not give me the right to ridicule and make fun of the actors who are simply trying to tell a story! Before you shoot off at the mouth next time you hear a story about people from Mississippi, make sure you know the facts before you ASSume! Assuming doesn't make you look very intelligent either!

ak907guy
ak907guy

@deadchrislane Assuming that your comment survives review, I can think of various and disgusting heterosexual perversions that I wish they would keep to themselves, as well.  Come "Judgment Day," everyone will be "dealt with," no matter what their sexual orientation.  I might also suggest that the play had nothing to do with sexual perversion.  Why not direct your venom at the pornographic industry?  Plenty more people are hurt by that.

bobinpowell
bobinpowell

@cmaglaughlin You aren't real bright are you?  They were disruptive during the performance.  It doesn't matter what the performance was about.

ak907guy
ak907guy

@Mario4 One of those Christian beliefs is "love thy neighbor as thyself." I don't see/feel the "love" in your comment, Mario.  Your question itself is a valid one -- should students have to watch a play that goes against their personal/Christian beliefs?  I'd have been fine if that's all you asked.  But let's take your statement and run with it ... my goodness, much of what goes on around me goes against my personal/Christian beliefs, Mario.  I don't run away and hide from confrontation, temptation, etc.  I believe Jesus would have attended the play and loved the actors.  He ate with unscrupulous tax collectors, forgave adulterers, etc.  It's attitudes like yours that give Christians a "black eye."  These days I have to stop and think twice before I tell someone I'm a "Christian."  As for the "keep it to yourself" theme ... imagine the reaction most folks have to Christian evangelism.  As far as YOUR personal beliefs go, do you "keep it to yourself," or do you share them with others?  What is it with the evangelicals/conservatives "agenda" that allows them to shove their beliefs down others' throats, but liberals can't do the same?  

MoeLarryAndJesus
MoeLarryAndJesus

@Mario4 Why is it that bigots like you are almost always also illiterate?

Never mind, I know the answer.  There's a strong connection between bigotry and stupidity.

dabbas3461
dabbas3461

@Mario4 So you're blaming the theater, not the athletes who took a freshman-level theater course?

Logical....

If you went to college, you'd know they provide syllabi, so they could have taken another course instead.

RomarioDelLago
RomarioDelLago

@JonPaley - OH, I see how it works.  You can label and judge others and practice intolerance all you want but heaven forbid anyone else makes a mistake, eh?  LOL  Nice!


Liberal hypocrisy at its best!

ak907guy
ak907guy

@JonPaley It's truly unfair to judge an entire state by the actions of some of its citizens.  (I should know; try living in the state that elected Palin as governor!)  I don't think any one state has a monopoly of backwardness and stupidity.  As "throbbstar" states very well, there are behaviors/attitudes in Mississippi that might put your state to shame.  It would be unfair to paint the entire student body of Ole' Miss as racist/homophobic, etc., based upon the actions of some of its students.  (Of course, I do wonder why audience members didn't shout them down either.)  The apologies issued by the university and its athletic department do admit/recognize that there's definitely a need to retrain/reeducate immature student behaviors and beliefs that motivate them.  Isn't this something true in your state, as well?

throbbstar
throbbstar

@JonPaley I moved to Mississippi 15 years ago. While the state isn't perfect, and I truly don't condone any action that was done, why don't you research the facts. On average, we donate more money than any other state for the average household income. While the racial stereotype's have been fought for years here, it's comments like this that keep trying to pull this state down. Why don't you come down to the south where we can teach you some manors!

BeauBradshaw
BeauBradshaw

@Rob16 @MichaelSullivan2

Shepherd was a drug dealer who happened to be gay and was killed by another drug dealer. Further more the rival drug dealer was also a part time lover who had an intimate relationship with Shepherd.

Could it be that he may NOT have been killed based on the fact that he was gay, but rather because of motives rooting from illegal drug activity and the type of people involved with drugs? 

Could it be the media focused on the fact that he was gay and drew the conclusion that that was why he was killed? 

http://politix.topix.com/homepage/7977-matthew-shepard-not-killed-for-being-gay-writes-gay-author

RomarioDelLago
RomarioDelLago

@ak907guy @Mario4 - Don't you just love Liberals who bash religion trying to pathetically use it to leverage those who believe?  Doesn't work that way, sorry moron.  Furthermore, your knowledge of the bible seems a bit one-sided.  It also says love the sinner but hate the sin.  HATE the sin.  And while you're busy judging Mario, try practicing some of that infamous Liberal "tolerance" along the way.  LOL


Liberal Tolerance...::: chuckling :::....what an Oxy-moron.

ak907guy
ak907guy

@RomarioDelLago @ak907guy @Mario4 I'm chuckling that you think only a "liberal" would bash religion.  I suppose, though, that the Jewish religious authorities must have called Jesus a "liberal" because he bashed their version of religion.  As a conservative born-again believer, I "bash" religious people who have singled out homosexuality as the sin to HATE ... and have plenty of sins of their own to work on.  It's a very delicate balance to love a sinner and hate their sin.  (FYI there is no Bible verse that says this ... closest thing coming to that conclusion is Jude 23.)  However, Jesus certainly has a thing to say about those quick to judge while turning a blind eye to their own sins.  Calling anyone showing tolerance a "moron" isn't showing love.  It also makes me think you might call Jesus a "moron" as well, for being so "tolerant" of those whose sins even devout religious people of His day wouldn't do.  I truly do bash "religion" and wholeheartedly embrace the teachings and example of a loving Jesus.  Conservative tolerance ... chuckling ... what an oxy-moron.

RomarioDelLago
RomarioDelLago

@ElvisHitler @RomarioDelLago @NoQNoSuperBowl - No is it the same thing they say about biologically antithetical behavior and the fembots who support it?  ;)

Sidenote - Homophobia is a liberal political word that means nothing.  So if someone believes that the gay lifestyle CHOICE is wrong they must have something wrong with them, eh?  LOL...so I guess you all suffer from homicidaphobia?   Morons.