Punishments for about 20 football players for the University of Mississippi have yet to be announced as the university is still in the midst of conducting an investigation of the incident.

The investigation is connected with an incident involving players from the Ole Miss football team, with some other audience members, who heckled and shouted “fag” and other anti-gay slurs during a school production of “The Laramie Project.” The play, “The Laramie Project,” is about Matthew Shepard, the gay college student in Wyoming who was tortured to death because of his sexual orientation in 1998.  

During the production, players heckled and harassed the “cast members and the characters they were portraying for their body types and sexual orientation.” Although other audience members joined in on the offensive and hateful speech, faculty member Rory Ledbetter indicated that the players seemed to instigate the harassment.

“They were definitely the ones who seemed to initiate others in the audience to say things,” said Ledbetter. “It seemed like they didn’t know that they were representing the university when they were doing these things.”

Shortly after the incident, the Univ. of Mississippi Athletics Department had the players issue an apology the entire cast. A member of the athletics department then sent an email apology to Ledbetter. So far, the athletics department issued no comment, but university Chancellor Dan Jones and Athletics Director Ross Bjork announced an investigation.  

“While we work to determine with certainty who disrupted the ‘Laramie Project’ play, we want everyone within our university community and beyond to know that we strongly condemn the behavior exhibited Tuesday night,” said a joint statement between Chancellor Jones and A.D. Bjork. “Our investigation will determine the degree to which any and all students were involved.”

Matt Barrie of ESPN discusses speculations on what kind of punishment would visit the players. He and Edward Aschoff’s, who reported the story for ESPN, speculated punishments were minimal as they only pondered suspensions for one or two quarters of gameplay, but never more than a single game.

And with the college football season in full swing and teams are deeply in the midst of conference play, hopefully the Ole Miss football and the athletic department will not let their game schedule affect the pursuit of a just punishment. It would only be fair to the cast members and other offended by the repugnant actions to go enact suitable punishments.

“If I can go support and respect the football team in their stadium, I feel like they should be able to support and respect me and my fellow cast members when we are doing a show,” said sophomore theater major Rachel Stanton.  

Josh is a writer and researcher with Ring of Fire. Follow him on Twitter @dnJdeli.