'The Laramie Project" is a play about the public's reaction to the 1998 murder of a gay young man, Matthew Shepard, in Laramie, Wyo.
The Ole Miss theater department in Oxford, Miss. was putting on their version of the play Tuesday night when about 20 Ole Miss football players disrupted it with anti-gay slurs, remarks about female cast members and picture-taking with cell phones.
Theater faculty member Rory Ledbetter claims that words like "f--" were yelled at cast members during the production and described the scene as “borderline hate speech,” notes TheDMOnline.com.
According to Ledbetter, an estimated 20 Ole Miss football players, who were required to be in attendance for a class, mocked the play.
“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,” said Ledbetter.
Athletes Associate Director of Academic Support Drew Clinton was called and showed up at the play halfway through.
“The football players were asked by the athletics department to apologize to the cast. However, I’m not sure the players truly understood what they were apologizing for,” said Ole Miss Theatre Department Chair Rene Pulliam.
Ledbetter added: “It’s ironic in a way. In [The Laramie Project] we address these topics of hate against homosexuals. What happened in the audience was the very thing we were trying to portray in the show. [The incident] suggests we have a long way to go.”
In response to the incident, USA Today sports writer Dan Wolken tweeted: "I'm told a number of people at Ole Miss now involved in investigating this, including the university's Bias Intervention Response Team."