On Sunday, Detroit Lions center Dominic Raiola allegedly hurled homophobic and demeaning slurs at the University of Wisconsin marching band during the pregame ceremonies in Green Bay, Wisc., where the Lions were playing the Green Bay Packers.
Michael Leckrone, the director of bands at Wisconsin, said the incident happened just before the national anthem, according to ESPN.
“The band was lined up in the end zone preparing to finish ‘The Star-Spangled Banner,’ which would complete the pregame, and basically they were verbally assaulted by a member of the Detroit Lions team,” Leckrone said to ESPN. “To [the band’s] credit, they just stood there and did what they were supposed to do, which is focus on their performance.”
In short, band members playing the country’s national anthem – traditionally played at all sporting events to honor the countless soldiers that sacrifice their lives so fans can enjoy watching a football game – stood their ground while Raiola, a football player who not only has a history of misconduct, but also made $3.4 million in 2012 to play a game, stood there and bullied the band for no reason.
Here is what Zach York, a junior band member at Wisconsin, had to say about the incident via a Facebook post:
“Dominic Raiola is literally the worst person I have ever had the fortune to encounter. After marching down the field awaiting the national anthem, He went off on a verbal tirade, [and] among other things, [questioned] my sexuality (as a band member) and then continued on to bring my sister and my recently deceased mother into the conversation. After I refused to give him the satisfaction of turning to look at him, he switched targets to a trombone ranting at him calling him overweight and saying he can’t play a real sport. After our halftime show, the same fine gentleman called a female member of the band the “c” word.”
As was stated, this is not the first time Raiola has minced words with the fans that pay good money to watch their favorite teams. He was fined $15,000 in 2010 for an incident in Miami where he made an obscene gesture. Prior to that, he was also fined $7,500 for making an obscene gesture to Lions fans in 2008.
Raiola is clearly a bully who has no respect for the fans and other members of the community that make his job and salary possible, and he shouldn’t be allowed to play professional football anymore. He has demonstrated that he has no respect for a game that at its purest form is sacred in nature.
The truly sad thing about society though is that Raiola’s actions are acceptable these days. There is no real outrage as of yet from the city of Detroit to expel him from the team.
Remember when former Kansas City Chiefs running back Larry Johnson was arrested two times in 2008 for assaulting women at Kansas City clubs? Then in 2009 when he went on Twitter to criticize then-head coach Todd Haley?
The city turned on Johnson. Fans of the Chiefs started an online petition to convince the organization to release Johnson, as he was only 75 yards away from being the franchise’s all-time leader in rushing yards. Fans didn’t want that honor bestowed on a guy they had no respect for and, for all intents and purposes, the petition worked. On Nov. 9, 2009, the Chiefs waived Johnson after he published a tweet demeaning a fan for making less money than him.
That’s the last time fans ever truly held a player on their hometown team accountable for his off field actions.
Nowadays, fans would rather crucify Tim Tebow because of his football ability rather than guys like Raiola, who are bullies and don’t deserve the honor of playing football in the NFL.
There was the incident with San Francisco 49ers linebacker Aldon Smith, who was allowed to start in a game this season just two days after being arrested and charged with DUI.
Player conduct in the NFL has deteriorated in recent years. It came to a head this summer when former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez was charged with first degree murder.
But it’s not just the league that has to combat this issue. Teams, organizations, cities and even fans themselves have to hold these players accountable with how they carry themselves. Everybody makes mistakes, but to allow guys like Raiola to represent a team and a city is just flat-out wrong.