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Ole Miss investigating football players’ gay slurs at "The Laramie Project"

OXFORD, Miss. -- University of Mississippi officials are investigating a report from The Daily Mississippian in which a number of Mississippi football players were among an audience that used “borderline hate speech” in verbally harassing student actors during a university theater production of The Laramie Project.

A person with knowledge of the incident who was not authorized to speak on behalf of the theater department told USA TODAY Sports the audience Tuesday largely drew from an introductory theater appreciation class, which is a fine arts elective that the university’s freshmen can choose. The person attributed much of the reaction to the audience being made up primarily of first-semester freshmen.

The play is based on the murder of Mathew Shepard, a University of Wyoming student who was killed in 1998 due to his sexual orientation.

According to Rory Ledbetter, the faculty member who spoke to the student newspaper, audience members used gay slurs to heckle cast members. Although football players weren’t the only individuals using such speech, they did seem to “initiate others in the audience to say things, too,” Ledbetter told the student newspaper.

“The football players were certainly not the only audience members that were being offensive last night,” Ledbetter said. “It seemed like they didn’t know that they were representing the university when they were doing these things.”

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