(Memphis) A Mid-South University, known for a history of racial tension, is in the spotlight again.
Some members of the Ole Miss football team are being investigated for heckling performers during a play depicting the story of a gay man, but some say the football players are not the problem.
The student actors want to make it clear that it wasn’t just the football team acting hateful – it really was almost the entire audience.
“It’s not that football players are homophobic or that they don’t show respect, it’s that the majority of our audience was making us physically and psychologically uncomfortable,” said Rachel Staton, one of the performers.
Young actors got-up on stage to depict the life of a student tortured to death for being gay only to feel attacked themselves.
“There is a moment in the show where I literally say ‘I’m 52 years old and I’m gay’ and there is silence and I felt this overwhelming amount of judgment and then laughter,” said performer Garrison Gibbons, who also identifies as gay.
Garrison and others on campus say it’s not easy being gay at Ole Miss, but in the theater Tuesday night, it became obvious that it may take a little longer for the less brave to come out.
“A lot of gay members of our theater department that were in the show have expressed that they are now extremely fearful to even walk around campus and show that they are gay at all,” said Student Cayley Smith.
In the past, there have been racial tensions Ole Miss, including a race riot after voters reelected president Obama.
“I think it’s sad that people can’t be comfortable with their sexuality around campus,” said Ann Conner Dickerson, a journalism student.
“We want to find out what happened to make sure we keep the university an inclusive environment where everybody feels comfortable,” said Danny Blanton, spokesperson for the University of Mississippi.
On October 12, it’ll be 15 years since Matthew Shepard was beaten to death. It’s what the play The Laramie Project is about.
“15 years later and what’s changed?” asked Performer Nathan Daniel Ford
The university of Mississippi’s Athletics’ department released a statement Thursday afternoon apologizing for the behavior of the football players and saying all those responsible will be held accountable.