GREEN BAY – Like just about everyone else in the state, Mike McCarthy loves him some University of Wisconsin marching band.
Which is why the Green Bay Packers coach was surprised by the news that the the Detroit Lions are investigating claims that center Dominic Raiola’s was verbally abusive of band members at Sunday’s game at Lambeau Field.
“We love the Wisconsin band, and obviously, I don’t know what the hell he’s thinking about, saying anything negative to the band,” McCarthy said Monday of Raiola, whose younger brother Donovan, coincidentally, played at Wisconsin.
“I don’t know what was said or this and that. I know our fans love it when the Wisconsin band is here. Phenomenal reputation; they did a great job yesterday. But as far as who said what, I really don’t have any comment on it.”
As they say at Wisconsin, you’ve said it all, Mike.
News of Raiola’s behavior surfaced Sunday evening, in the wake of the Packers’ 22-9 victory over the Lions – the Packers’ 23rd consecutive victory over Detroit in the state of Wisconsin. The Lions issued a statement earlier Monday that read, “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.”
The band was at Lambeau Field to perform at halftime and do its traditional “Fifth Quarter” celebration after the game. Multiple band members claimed Raiola was verbally abusive and used slurs questioning their sexuality.
Head coach Jim Schwartz said he did not hear or see the center talking to band members but added he won’t be happy if he learns it’s true.
“I’d be surprised if that happened in those circumstances,” he said. “If it did happen, we’d be very disappointed in that kind of behavior.”
Monday afternoon, UW dean of students Lori Berquam and band director Mike Leckrone issued a joint statement, in which they said Lions president Tom Lewand had apologized.
"We were dismayed to hear reports of unprofessional and personal verbal attacks by a Detroit Lions player towards members of the University of Wisconsin Marching Band before the Packers vs. Lions game at Lambeau Field on Sunday, Oct. 6,” the statement read. “Earlier today, we received a call from Lions president Tom Lewand. He has apologized for the actions of his player and has assured us that further discussion will take place. We appreciate the Lions' efforts to investigate this further and are grateful to Mr. Lewand for his concern.
"Special opportunities such as playing before a Packers game are highlights for our band members: something they look forward to, and that we hope they will remember with pride. We are proud of the way members of the UW Band have brought this matter to our attention, and how they kept their focus on providing a great experience for the fans at Lambeau Field."
One band member, Zach York, a junior trumpet player, wrote on Facebook: “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.”
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There are no games scheduled for today.