Ole Miss Athletes Showed Poor Judgment With 'Borderline Hate Speech'

By Karim Akbar
Derick E. Hingle – USA Today Sports

When your school creed contains opening lines like ‘I believe in respect for the dignity of each person’ and ends with ‘I pledge to uphold these values and encourage others’ you better live up to them. It’s a promise you make with the university that demonstrates you have responsibility and character. That’s especially true for students, when it’s creed week, but most definitely a must for student-athletes representing the university. So much for that.

The University of Mississippi is now investigating allegations of hate speech and otherwise homophobic behavior detrimental to the school by ‘about 20 members’ of the Ole Miss football team in an audience which also included athletes from various other sports. The homophobic mocking included ‘borderline hate speech’ directed at the actors. Some players even laughed and heckled the actors while snapping photos with their iPhones. This came as a mostly freshman class performed a university production of “The Laramie Project” which is based on the 1998 murder of Matthew Shepard who was murdered over his sexual orientation.

Those facts are now being gathered by Ole Miss president Dr. Donald Cole who told ESPN he has a “good idea who they [the 20 players] are” but added that the school is “not in the punishment phase” just yet. That punishment phase will likely come just as soon as the school gathers the facts on the situation. But really in this incident, it is Ole Miss that is sullied here while the NCAA plays an awkward cop out of its own jurisdiction. We’re not talking death-penalty rules violations here or some unauthorized monetary scheme that’s being covered up, but we are talking about character in action.

When you sign a pledge or take up your school’s creed then follow it up with controversy like this, you should be thrown off the team. Period. The school has enough to deal with without its players acting like idiots during a theater production. I realize these are mostly freshmen we’re talking about, but at some point you have to join the real world with the rest of us and grow up. There’s no excuse for this kind of behavior, and it should be dealt with accordingly by the school. Suspensions likely will follow, but those won’t mean much; no one wants the athletes suspended anyway. The insincere apologies won’t help much either, but the school can encourage tolerance with its proper punishment for this act.

Karim Akbar is awriter for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @Kuhreem , “Like” his RantSports page on Facebook or add him to your network on Google

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