From hazing to slurs, some NFL athletes are being unfairly treated by fellow teammates in the locker room.

Robert Blaine, Reporter

Problems surrounding NFL locker rooms have been elevated to the national spotlight after numerous incidents. Last year, the case of Miami Dolphins’ offensive lineman Richie Incognito’s bullying fellow lineman Jonathan Martin made headlines. The ensuing case led to Martin’s being shipped to San Francisco in a trade, Incognito’s temporary suspension, and the public’s focusing on the future of NFL locker rooms.

Sophomore Neil Krishnan commented on the Dolphins’ locker room situation and the potential for similar situations to arise in the future by saying, “It’s good that they’re not allowing that environment. It’s the players’ responsibility, but the team needs to mediate [these disputes].”

NFL locker rooms have always been very private. While the press is allowed in, the majority of the time only players and coaches frequent the locker rooms. Many veterans have been known to haze rookies, but the problem of bullying has just come to the national spotlight. If this treatment goes too far, it could have potentially devastating implications for the league.

The expected arrival of former Missouri defensive end Michael Sam to the league has further increased concerns. Sam, who has declared for the NFL draft and is a likely mid-round pick, could be the first openly homosexual player to play in the NFL. Others have come out after their playing days, but Sam’s revealing of his sexuality would make him the first active gay NFL player.

Many current and former players and executives have expressed concern about the locker-room treatment of Sam, as NFL locker rooms are notoriously homophobic. This has made some skeptical of the way that a player such as Sam, who is undeniably talented, would be able to fit in with the NFL locker room culture.

Senior Garrett Jones commented, “I see a lot of parallels in the Michael Sam situation to Jackie Robinson. The guy is going to take a lot of heat from hecklers but will also serve as a symbol of strength for the gay community in their push to achieve national tolerance.”

The league is also looking to reduce discrimination, contemplating a ban on racial slurs, most notably the n-word. While the league claims that it is to protect players and young fans for whom the players may be role models, the players are split on such a rule. The new rule would mandate a 15-yard penalty for such language, which could easily influence a game.

Senior Vaani Ohri remarked, “I’m glad to see that professional sports are finally taking a stand on ethics.”

Some are against the rule simply for the large impact it could have, while others are dissidents due to the way that such slurs are embedded in football culture. Supporters of the proposed rule agree that correcting racial slurs is a major issue that the league can do something about. NFL locker room culture is set to change with the impending regulations and greater public scrutiny.