When the Wisconsin marching band made the trek up to Lambeau Field Sunday to play the national anthem and perform during the Green Bay Packers vs. Detroit Lions game, it was supposed to be fun. However, things quickly went south.
Maybe you know where I’m going with the rest of the story already, but for the sake of The Badger Herald’s readers who do not, here’s a brief rundown of what happened next.
Just before the band played the national anthem at the start of the game, Lions’ center Dominic Raiola allegedly made a number of inappropriate comments directed at the larger members and the women in the group.
Band Director Mike Leckrone told The Badger Herald Tuesday his band members did not retaliate during the incident and that Raiola’s comments had not been provoked.
“I think [the inappropriate comments] tripped players up a bit because they really didn’t expect it, but to their credit they focused on the task at hand and completed it,” Leckrone said.
Now fast forward to Tuesday, Oct. 8.
Raiola has since apologized for his comments and made a significant donation to the band’s fund.
The Lions president, Tom Lewand, issued his own public apology and had this to say about Raiola’s conduct:
“After investigating the matter and discussing Sunday’s events with Dominic, we are pleased that he has taken ownership of his actions and admitted those actions were wrong and unacceptable. As we said yesterday, his actions were not reflective of the standard of behavior that we expect from any player or any member of our organization.”
Beyond that, nothing has happened. No fines, no suspensions, nothing.
So now that we have the facts out of the way, let’s get to the meat of the issue.
What Raiola did was obviously wrong, and thankfully, nobody seems to disagree with that fact — even Raiola himself — but the NFL and the Lions seem to have just left things at that. In their eyes, it seems things have been sorted out.
To put this in perspective, I’d like to conjure up an image of this same type of misconduct happening in a stereotypical office environment. I think it is pretty safe to assume that this kind of sexual harassment and abuse would not be tolerated in any professional field, and would almost definitely result in the firing of said employee.
What makes Raiola any different?
Football is his job and he gets paid a significant amount of money to do it. So why is it that when he does something this distasteful, he merely gets a light tap on the wrist?
I know the answer one might give me is obvious: “He is an athlete” or “He is famous.” But I hope that by writing about it people will at the very least begin to think about this status quo.
Regardless of whether or not Raiola actually feels remorse for his actions, which is very debatable, it is this belief that athletes can do whatever they want that needs to change.
The NFL needs to, at a minimum, suspend Raiola for a number of games, especially when you take into account that he has done this twice before in 2008 and 2010 and the $7,500 and $15,000 fines, respectively, were not enough to deter him from doing it again.
Until football players realize they play by the same rules as everyone else, acts like this will continue to happen, and they have.
This past summer, the NFL became the laughing stock of the sports world when reports came out at the start of the 2013 season that 31 active NFL players had been arrested during the offseason for various offenses, including murder.
While Raiola’s offense may not have taken anyone’s life, it is a concerning blip on the radar of what is becoming a bigger issue.
The pedestal that many place sports, and with that the athletes, on has reached new heights and not in a good way.
Athletes may be wealthier than most of us, but that doesn’t make them above everyone else when it comes to common decency between human beings.
The NFL and each of the teams in the league would do well to remember that, especially when they look at where those millions of dollars they make each year comes from.
Nick is a senior majoring in journalism and political science. Do you think the NFL needs to do something about Raiola’s behavior or is his apology enough? Let Nick know by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet him @np_daniels.