Ole Miss Apologizes After Football Players’ Reported Use of Antigay Slurs

[Updated (10/3/2013, 5:53 p.m.) with details about an apology from the chancellor and athletic director.]

The chancellor and athletic director of the University of Mississippi apologized on Thursday after a report in the university’s student newspaper, The Daily Mississippian, said that a group of football players and other students had used antigay slurs during a campus production of the play The Laramie Project, according to USA Today and a letter from the two officials.

The play is based on the 1998 murder of Matthew Shepard, a gay student at the University of Wyoming.

On Thursday morning, the student newspaper reported that audience members heckled the cast and used antigay slurs at a performance on Tuesday night.

Rory Ledbetter, an assistant professor of voice and acting who directed the play, told the Mississippian that while the football players were not the only audience members to use such slurs, they were “definitely the ones who seemed to initiate others in the audience to say things, too.”

The players were asked to apologize by the athletics department, according to the Mississippian, but René Pulliam, the theater department’s chair, told the newspaper she was “not sure the players truly understood what they were apologizing for.”

Hugh Freeze, the Rebels’ head football coach, said in a message on his Twitter account that “we certainly do not condone any actions that offend or hurt people in any way. We are working with all departments involved to find the facts.”

Later on Thursday, the chancellor, Daniel W. Jones, and the athletic director, Ross Bjork, released a letter to students, faculty members, and alumni saying that they “strongly condemn the behavior exhibited Tuesday night.”

They pledged to meet with the athletes, who they said represented various sports, and to “have a dialogue about what happened, about our universitywide commitment to inclusivity and civility.” They added that it was clear that some students had “badly misrepresented the culture of this university.”

They said they would work with other campus officials, including a bias-incident response team, “to determine the facts and appropriate next steps.”

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