Detroit Lions offensive lineman Dominic Raiola went on a verbal tirade on Sunday with obscene and homophobic comments directed at members of the University of Wisconsin Badger Band during a game against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field, a school official told SB Nation. The incident happened during warmups.
"My kids were standing in the end zone, waiting to perform, when they were subjected to some pretty strong verbal abuse," Michael Leckrone, director of bands for the University of Wisconsin told SB Nation on Monday.
"They were highly intimidated by it, by a 295-pound lineman saying those things to a 165-pound clarinet player," Leckrone added.
Zach York, a tuba player in the band, posted more information about the incident on his Facebook page after the game, including the specifics of the insults hurled by Raiola at various band members.
The band played on in the face of the incident. Leckrone praised his students for ignoring the remarks and staying focused on their performance.
"I'm proud of them for how they responded," he said.
On the ride home, Leckrone and a representative from the Dean of Students' office traveling with the band asked students not to respond to the incident. Instead, they decided to draft a statement from the university to send to the Packers and the Lions. Leckrone said that statement is forthcoming from the school.
The Lions released a statement in response to the reports (via Pro Football Talk):
"We are aware of the reports involving Dominic Raiola and the University of Wisconsin Marching Band," the statement said. "Those reports are extremely inconsistent with the standard of behavior we expect from our players and from every member of our organization. We currently are gathering more information and will respond further when appropriate."
NFL Draft blogger Tom Melton first documented the complaints made against Raiola. Melton also noted that Lions safety Louis Delmas made a point to make peace with the Wisconsin band:
It is worth noting that while Raiola's comments were completely uncalled for, a band member confirmed to me that Lions safety Louis Delmas apologized to him and other members of the band for Raiola's actions and assured them that he had spoken with him about it. He also added that he enjoyed their performance.
The Wisconsin Badger Band has been a fixture at Packers games since 1989.
"It's a shame that it was spoiled," Leckrone said. "It's a shame that one individual doesn't reflect well on the entire Lions organization. It was totally uncalled for and inappropriate."
Raiola waved off the incident in remarks to the press on Monday.
According to #Lions center Dominic Raiola The band story was "Blown way out of proportion".— Jennifer Hammond (@HammerFox2) October 7, 2013
"We've got more important things to worry about right now....we're worried about wins and loses." - Dominic Raiola in wake of #BandGate— Jennifer Hammond (@HammerFox2) October 7, 2013
Raiola, 34, was selected in the second round of the 2001 NFL Draft and became the starting center for the team in his second season. He has been a stalwart at the position for the last 12 seasons for the Lions. Raiola has previously received fines for an obscene gesture and obscene comments, both directed at fans.