In the wake of the Packers' 22-9 win over Detroit, a controversy has been sparked by insensitive and homophobic comments allegedly made by Lions center Dominic Raiola. According to reports, Raiola verbally assaulted members of the University of Wisconsin marching band by calling them overweight, using the c-word with female band members, and questioning the sexuality of several others.
The controversy erupted after band member Zach York posted a tirade describing Raiola's behavior on Facebook, the full text of which follows:
"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, among other things, questioning 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."
The Lions released a statement today addressing the Raiola's alleged comments.
"We are aware of the reports involving Dominic Raiola and the University of Wisconsin Marching Band. 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."
It's important to establish context when dealing with a situation of this nature, and Raiola's past does him no favors. In 2008, he was fined $7,500 for making an offensive gesture towards a fan. Only two years later, Raiola was fined again, this time for making an obscene comment towards a fan. Needless to say, Raiola's history makes a suspension likely if the reports are accurate.
If they are indeed accurate, regardless of the exact degree to which Raiola taunted band members, it's a despicable act by a repulsive human being. Raiola seems to have no regard for either the people around him or the time he lives in. We as a society no longer accept homophobic slurs, and continuing to utilize them reflects poorly on Raiola's character and the reputation of the Lions. Furthermore, targeting college kids is a cowardly act. The band members were in attendance only to entertain the crowd and were in no way fair game for player taunts. If Raiola can't recognize this, his team needs to take action to inform him.
Overall, it's a black eye for a league already struggling to shed a Neanderthal image. Dinosaurs like Raiola are not a part of the future, either for the NFL or American society.
Jason Hirschhorn covers the Green Bay Packers for Acme Packing Co. He has previously written for Lombardi Ave, College Hoops Net, LiveBall Sports, and the List Universe. He is also currently a senior writer for Beats Per Minute, an indie-music webzine. Follow him on Twitter: @JBHirschhorn