Detroit Lions team president Tom Lewand apologized to UW Marching Band director Mike Leckrone on Monday afternoon after reports surfaced that center Dominic Raiola verbally abused members of the band Sunday at Lambeau Field.
“He said that he hadn’t fully investigated but he knew enough that an apology was due,” Leckrone said. “I thought it was a heartfelt and welcomed gesture.”
In a Facebook post, UW band member Zach York accused Raiola of making verbal insults, some sexual in nature, prior to the Green Bay Packers’ 22-9 win over the Lions.
Leckrone said five or six band members told him during the game that Raiola verbally abused them while standing in the end zone at the end of their pregame performance.
Six to eight other band members who overheard Raiola’s tirade offered similar versions, he added.
The band gave pregame and halftime performances at the game.
In York’s Facebook post Sunday night, he wrote:
“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 the halftime show, he said, “the same fine gentleman” used a vulgarity in describing a female member of the band.
Raiola, whose brother Donovan played center at UW from 2002 to 2005, is a veteran center who played college football at the University of Nebraska.
He was drafted by the Lions in 2002 and has spent his entire NFL career with the team.
The run-in isn’t his first scrap with non-players. According to the Lions, he was fined $15,000 by the team in 2010 for responding to a fan in Miami with obscene words and a hand gesture. In 2008, he notched a $7,500 fine for inappropriate conduct toward fans during a home game against Minnesota, according to the team’s release.
Leckrone said he commiserated with Lewand during the call because the UW band also made headlines a few years ago over incidents that included hazing, lewdness and an assistant director who resigned after reported inappropriate sexual behavior.
“From the problems we’ve had, we’ve talked a lot about how an individual can discredit a whole lot of people’s hard work,” Leckrone said.
Leckrone said he was proud of the UW band members for not allowing the incident to affect their performance.
“The good thing was the band kids did what they were supposed to do,” he said. “We’ve talked about being professional in situations like that.”
Leckrone wasn’t sure if Raiola planned to apologize.
“(Lewand) told me he wanted me to convey his apologies to the band and I told him I would do that at our meeting (Tuesday) when we have our first rehearsal this week,” Leckrone said.
Lions coach Jim Schwartz emphasized at a news conference Monday that he has high standards for his players’ conduct .
“When you go on the road, there’s hostile environments, fans say a lot of things and stuff like that,” Schwartz said. “We need to stay above stuff like that.”
Packers coach Mike McCarthy was asked about the incident Monday and declined to say much more than how much the team enjoys the annual appearance the band makes at Lambeau Field.
“We love the Wisconsin band, and obviously, I don’t know what he’s thinking about saying anything negative to the band,” McCarthy said. “I don’t know what was said or this and that. I know our fans love it when the Wisconsin band is here. They did a great job yesterday, but as far as who said what, I really don’t have any comment on it.”