Well fuck. As presented in various media outlets this morning, Ole Miss is tied to a fashion of simple-mindedness so often and unfortunately associated with American Southern-ness generally and with Mississippians in particular. This is a terrible story. This is a complete embarrassment. This story, unfortunately, will not easily be separated from Ole Miss' past associations with intolerance. This instance presents particular challenges for the school and the athletic administration.
That football players are involved makes this an appropriate forum, I think, to address this story. But I this isn't about football. There are things that are right and wrong in this world which demand much more attention than sports. This incident at Ole Miss demands more attention than sports. Students, including football players, at a student play heckled the actors with incorrigible sexual epithets. That's not the worst part: the play, The Laramie Project, dramatizes the hate-crime martyrdom of another college student 15 years ago because of his sexual orientation.
Violence and discrimination are not things of the past. Mathew Sheppard's murder, Ole Miss's production of this play, and the unfortunate reception of this play by its students and student athletes are clear indications of that. I am desperately sorry for the intolerance of these students who attend a university that taught me so much tolerance. I am sorry to the memory of Mr. Sheppard and to his family that Ole Miss is associated with this.
I hope and pray that this story is about the mindless, foolish behavior of stupid young adults, and not a deep-seeded, actual hatred for those that may be different. Regardless, the only way to correct any "cause" or "reason" for this terrible behavior is punishment. How can the memory of a human being who was brutally murdered by intolerance be protected by any such action in the future? The students involved must be held to account. They must fully understand the consequences of their actions as those actions relate, not just to the school or to the team, but to themselves - those individuals who chose to so openly desecrate hope for tolerance of others. What type of men and women are these? What type of men and women will they become because of their decisions?
The school and the athletic department have decisions to make. I sincerely hope they attempt to bring the students involved to a full and deep understanding of what their words and actions actually mean. Anything less than this would be a failure of the University of Mississippi to be the exceptional place of tolerance and learning that I know it to be.