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Report: 20 Ole Miss Football Players Heckled, Disrespected Student Actors During Play About Matthew Shepard's Murder

Come on.

Update: Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze has addressed the issue on Twitter this morning. He says he is working to learn all of the facts on last night's situation.

Earlier: Ole Miss football coach Hugh Freeze has a situation on his hands in Oxford. It's being reported by The Daily Mississippian's Adam Ganucheau that approximately 20 Rebels football players "openly disrespected and disrupted" the school theater department's rendition of "The Laramie Project", a play about Matthew Shepard's murder in 1998. For those unaware, the murder (which many considered a "hate crime" due to Shepard's sexuality) has led to an amendment to include sexual orientation in hate crimes legislation.

Play director Rory Ledbetter told Ganucheau that people in the audience used "borderline hate speech", including the use of the word "fag". He went on:

“The football players were certainly not the only audience members that were being offensive last night. 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.”

The players were in attendance because their freshman-level theater course required so.

According to Ganucheau, Associate Director of Academic Support Drew Clinton was called to the event to speak with the players about their actions. The players were then made to go backstage in between acts and apologize. According to the performance report, that didn't really happen.

After the second act of the play and after Clinton arrived, cast members were told backstage that the football players wished to apologize to the cast after the play for their actions, which included “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,” according to the performance report.

If true, this is clearly unacceptable and shameful. Football players (and all other athletes) are supposed to set the example on how to represent a university. It should be interesting to see the athletic department's response to the situation.