Sanctity of the UL locker room: How private is it?
Should what happens in the locker room stay in the locker room?
It is a debate ignited by a profane and obscene cellphone video that went viral earlier this month, one that briefly put the UL football program in the national spotlight for reasons it did not want.
Folks from different walks of life — all with ties of some sort to the Ragin’ Cajuns and their sports teams — have various views on the sensitive subject.
“I do believe that, to a certain extent,” Cajuns head coach Mark Hudspeth said.
“That’s the same thing in business. What happens in a board room is probably pretty important to stay in that board room. You don’t want sensitive information leaking out about a big foreclosure, or a big project. And the same thing in the locker room.
“My speeches to the team, teammates talking back and forth to one another — that is sensitive,” Hudspeth added. “That needs to stay in the locker room.”
“From my perspective I do think there should be some expectation that the locker room is a private thing,” said Robert Daigle, executive chairman of the Ragin’ Cajun Athletic Foundation, fundraising arm for the UL athletic foundation.
“There’s all kind of things that go on in the locker room. There are discussions between coaches and players about things that are very private and very privileged. I think at the end of the day the coaches and the athletes should have an expectation that what goes on in the locker room stays in private.
“Now, in this particular instance,” added Daigle, a prominent real estate developer (River Ranch, Sugar Mill Pond) with an LSU law degree, “that doesn’t mean you should be out there with your cellphone videoing things that you don’t want to get outside of the locker room.”
Which prompts another question: What is the line that, when crossed, erases any or all expectations of privacy?
The video showed multiple unidentified Cajun football players dancing and singing to a protest song, FDT (F--- Donald Trump), recorded by rap artists YG and Nipsey Hussle.
Some in the video flashed obscene hand gestures; at least one seemed to dance in a sexually suggestive manner.
They did so initially near their lockers, and later in the middle of the locker room, beneath a fleur-de-lis depiction that is lit on the ceiling and on top of the same team logo that covers the floor.
Multiple players filmed the scene with their cellphones, including at least one who was fully naked.
And all it happened on Election Day, after practice only two days before a big Sun Belt Conference game at Georgia Southern and just a few hours before Trump was voted in as president of the United States.
At least four players were disciplined as a result, but none were suspended, and the specific nature of the discipline was not disclosed.
“So while in a way I do think there should be an expectation of privacy,” Daigle said, “on the other hand the athletes, and what they do in that locker room, and how they do it, should understand that this expectation of privacy will go away if their very actions are the type of actions that pretty well assure it’s not gonna remain private.”
Scott Farmer, who on Tuesday resigned his position as UL's athletic director, knows some consider the locker room a private place, and that they also firmly believe what happens inside the confines indeed should stay there.
Before getting into the athletic administration business, he was both a swimmer and later the women’s swim coach at Georgia Southern University.
“I’m very old-school,” Farmer said. “I grew up that way, and I certainly understand that.”
But Farmer also knows that the setup of the Cajun football locker room in the school’s newly built athletic performance center was part of what led to the anti-Trump video happening.
“We designed the music system in that locker room so the kids could play their music on it,” he said.
“Yes, that (feeling what happens there should remain there) is the way I grew up. Well maybe these things have changed that, and maybe we were a little bit behind the times and we shouldn’t have allowed that.”
Three days after shooting of the video — first published locally, then picked up by national college football websites including those belonging to ESPN and Sports Illustrated — Hudspeth made an emotional apology on behalf of his team and announced a series of measures to address the behavior.
The university initially made only written statements regarding the matter.
The coach’s subsequent announcement of repercussions came after multiple meetings involving Hudspeth, Farmer and others from the school.
Among them: No more video by players can be taken inside the locker room, no more music from players’ phones can be piped into common areas and 1,000 hours of community service to be performed by the team in the form of talks on lessons learned by players visiting local schools and Boys and Girls Club programs.
Players can, however, still listen to their own choice of music privately on headphones when in the locker room and elsewhere.
“Even though it’s behind closed doors,” Hudspeth said of the locker room, “you still are around other teammates, and we want to be a great teammate to everyone.”
On the day of his announcement, Hudspeth — whose 4-6 Cajuns play 6-4 Arkansas State on Saturday morning at Cajun Field — was asked if he ever got to the root of how the video originally went public.
At the time, he said he had not.
“I tried to get to ground zero,” Hudspeth said, “because that’s a break in trust when somebody puts something out — especially when people are showering that were not even involved in the video, that didn’t ask to be in the video.
“You’ve got to protect your players, and now hopefully we’ve done a better job of taking steps moving forward that will protect our players’ privacy, and players make better decisions moving forward.”
Theories abound as to how it happened.
One is that the video was shared among teammates, and then others, and before long it was making the rounds on social media sites including Facebook.
“What happens in the locker room, stays in the locker room,” Cajuns backup tight end Matt Barnes tweeted shortly after the video was made public.
“Unless one of your teammates decide(s) to record it and send it out,” former UL offensive lineman Mykhael Quave responded to Barnes via Twitter.
Another theory is that a Cajun player (or players) intentionally shared it so others would know what was happening inside the locker room, and that one or more boosters later shared it with media members to expose the same.
“I know the whole locker room deal,” said Josh Jagneaux, a Cajun superfan. “I know that it’s scandalous to talk about what goes on in a locker room, and videoing it. It’s incomprehensible to me.
“But, having said that, it seems to me … that the person that videotaped that event wanted it to get out.
“Politics can destroy anything,” Jagneaux added, “and a locker room would be very susceptible.”
However it happened, Keith Kisbaugh — another fan and financial backer of the program — thinks Cajun players should have known the episode would not remain within the confines of where it happened.
“They talk about privacy in a locker room. There’s no privacy in a locker room. I’ve been there,” said Kisbaugh, who threatened to pull his support of the program afterward.
“If you’re in your own house with some friends, that’s a different thing,” Kisbaugh added. “Doing what they did, that’s intimidating anyone in that locker room that doesn’t agree with you.”
Jay Miller is the father of a current Cajun player, Sterling Miller, and four other sons.
He’s also the pastor of The Family Church in Lafayette, and president of Lafayette Christian Academy.
Miller understands those who fervently believe in the sanctity of the locker room, but he also feels that those who cross a certain behavioral line “need someone to tell them the truth.”
“I played (Division III) basketball at a Christian university,” he said. “So I think the settings were completely different at the time. Different situations. So I have not been a part of that kind of (NCAA Division I football) locker room.
“But I do know that there are things that are said and probably done in locker rooms that, if they knew they were gonna get out, they probably wouldn’t have done ’em.
“But as far as ‘the code’ — yeah,” Miller added, “I think there’s probably a little bit of an honor code.”
Daigle, the RCAF chairman, condemns the behavior seen on the video.
He’s also called for “education” for those involved.
“I have no doubt that when this was going on they felt like it probably was something limited to the locker room,” Daigle said, “and I don’t think any one of those kids probably had any understanding at that time as to how this thing would blow up and how that information could be disseminated to the general public.
“But,” he added, “it’s a lesson learned.”
Sports engagement editor Kevin Foote contributed to this report.