Raiola accused of verbal abuse of UW band

ALLEN PARK, Mich. — The Detroit Lions are looking into an alleged verbal abuse incident involving starting center Dominic Raiola during Sunday’s 22-9 loss to the Green Bay Packers.

Raiola is alleged to have hurled insults, some involving the sexuality and physical appearance of some University of Wisconsin band members, both before the game and at halftime.

Michael Leckrone, the director of bands at Wisconsin, told ESPN.com that the incident occurred just prior to the start of the national anthem in the end zone, as the band was planning on finishing up its pregame performance. The Wisconsin band travels once a year to perform at a Packers game.

“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 their credit, they just stood there and did what they were supposed to do, which is focus on their performance.

“I think they were a little bit shaken by it and they reported it to me after the conclusion of the pregame show and we were back in our seats.”

Leckrone guessed between eight and 12 band members approached him following the alleged verbal assault. Leckrone said he did not hear the altercation happen himself, as he was on the other side of the field and was not directly involved.

For that reason, he did not want to go into detail about what was allegedly said to his students.

“That would all be hearsay on my part,” Leckrone said. “The tone certainly was very abusive and certainly not something that you would expect from somebody who is a professional.”

Leckrone said he instructs his band how to deal with opposing players “every day” and was “very pleased” with how they handled this alleged situation. He also said it would have been very difficult for any incident to have happened at halftime, as the band’s performance started and ended before players returned to the field.

One thing is known for sure — Wisconsin’s band is planning on filing a complaint with the Lions. As of 2 p.m., Leckrone said they had not filed it yet.

“We’re still planning to,” Leckrone said. “Haven’t gotten to that. Too many phone calls today.”

Lions coach Jim Schwartz emphasized that he has high standards for his players’ conduct, both on and off the field.

“When you go on the road, there’s hostile environments, fans say a lot of things and stuff like that,” Schwartz said Monday. “We need to stay above stuff like that. I didn’t hear that personally on the field. No other coaches did. I think we’ve already released a statement that we are going to look into it as an organization.

“I would be very disappointed if that was the case, because that’s certainly not the character we want to display.”

The Lions issued their statement prior to Schwartz’s news conference Monday.

“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.”

If true, this incident wouldn’t be Raiola’s first run-in with fans. He was fined $7,500 during the team’s winless 2008 season when he made a gesture at Lions fans following a loss that dropped Detroit to 0-13.

In 2010, Raiola was fined $15,000 for a verbal altercation with a fan in Miami that also included an obscene gesture.

If the latest allegations are found to be true, Schwartz said “we’ll certainly address it, for sure,” when asked about whether or not the team would discipline Raiola.

Raiola has been with the Lions his entire career after being drafted by Detroit in 2001 out of Nebraska. Coincidentally, Raiola’s brother, Donovan, was an offensive lineman at Wisconsin.

  • Previously covered University of Michigan for ESPN.com and AnnArbor.com
  • Also covered Notre Dame for Fort Wayne Journal Gazette

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