Ole Miss football players accused of disrupting 'Laramie Project' performance

Head coach Hugh Freeze has a discipline decision to make. - Spruce Derden-US PRESSWIRE

An audience that included Rebels football players allegedly disrupted a play based on the life of a murdered gay man by using homophobic slurs.

About 20 Ole Miss football players were included in a large group of audience members who harassed and openly disrespected student actors during a University of Mississippi theater performance Tuesday evening, according to the school's student newspaper. The football players later apologized, reportedly at the request of the Ole Miss athletic department.

The UM theater department was showing a production of "The Laramie Project," which is based on the 1999 murder of Matthew Shepard, an openly gay University of Wyoming student who was killed due to his sexual orientation. From The Daily Mississippian:

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."

The football players were apparently attending the play because of a freshman-level theater course requirement. The athletic department was made aware of their actions during the play, and one player delivered to the cast a note of apology on behalf of the group following the second act, according to the report. Although, theater department chair Rene Pulliam said she wasn't "sure the players truly understood what they were apologizing for."

A university "bias intervention response team" is reportedly among the authorities looking into the incident.

Update: An actor tells USA Today's Dan Wolken the audience was behaving disrespectfully even during the play's funeral scene. Hugh Kellenberger reports one student disputes the account of the event, with "The people on stage were constantly giggling ... I never heard the word fag used" among freshman Rob McAuley's comments.

Ledbetter said the players weren't the only ones in the audience harassing actors, but they appeared to be leading the disruption.

"The football players were certainly not the only audience members that were being offensive last night," Ledbetter said. "But they were definitely the ones who seemed to initiate others in the audience to say things, too. It seemed like they didn't know that they were representing the university when they were doing these things."

In addition to allegedly hurling homophobic slurs at cast members, the performance report stated that some in the audience 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."

A search of Ole Miss players' Twitter accounts did not yield any discussion or photos of the incidents.

More from SB Nation college football:

Your full Week 6 CFB TV schedule guide

Week 6 college football picks

Air Force, Army, Navy games good to go

Who’s next after Kiffin? | Who’s next for USC?

Longform: Inside Chip Kelly’s offense at New Hampshire

Today’s college football news headlines

X
Log In Sign Up

forgot?
Log In Sign Up

Please choose a new SB Nation username and password

As part of the new SB Nation launch, prior users will need to choose a permanent username, along with a new password.

Your username will be used to login to SB Nation going forward.

I already have a Vox Media account!

Verify Vox Media account

Please login to your Vox Media account. This account will be linked to your previously existing Eater account.

Please choose a new SB Nation username and password

As part of the new SB Nation launch, prior MT authors will need to choose a new username and password.

Your username will be used to login to SB Nation going forward.

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

By becoming a registered user, you are also agreeing to our Terms and confirming that you have read our Privacy Policy.

Join SBNation.com

You must be a member of SBNation.com to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at SBNation.com. You should read them.

Join SBNation.com

You must be a member of SBNation.com to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at SBNation.com. You should read them.

Spinner.vc97ec6e

Authenticating

Great!

Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.