The Daily Mississippian’s Adam Ganucheau reports as many as 20 members of the Ole Miss football squad were part of an audience that heckled a Mississippi Dance Company production of “The Laramie Project”, the 2000 drama about reactions to Matthew Sheppard‘s 1988 murder.
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 several accounts, the football players attended the play because they are enrolled in a freshman-level theater course that requires the students to attend a specific number of plays throughout the semester.
“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.”