"It's better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt."
Generally speaking, that quotation represents sound life advice. Don't count Detroit Lions' center Dominic Raiola amongst its believers, however. Raiola, long regarded as a great teammate due to his passion, has been carrying his emotions far too out of bounds lately.
After a series of embarrassing dustups in the past with fans both in Detroit and away from home, Raiola was again forced to put his foot in his mouth this week following a Sunday confrontation with Wisconsin's Marching Band.
Whether Raiola was provoked is not the point. Instead, once again, Raiola was the one making a fool of himself given his verbal abuse of several band members. Reportedly, Raiola called several members expletives while sending other derogatory terms their way. It was enough to cause Lions' president Tom Lewand to reach out to Wisconsin's band director and make apologetic overtures to athletic director Barry Alvarez, as well.
Tuesday, Raiola apologized himself, finally admitting some level of personal guilt in the matter.
"My interaction with the Wisconsin Marching Band was inappropriate," Raiola said. "I apologize to those I offended along with all of the members of Wisconsin's marching band. I also apologize to the Lions' organization and my teammates."
This time, Raiola needs to mean those words after saying them. He was sorry after flipping off his own fans in the midst of an 0-16 season, and he was sorry after running into the tunnel and cursing out Miami fans with a similar gesture in 2010. Now, he's sorry again for running his mouth outside the game to defenseless college students.
It's fine for Raiola to occasionally take a hard line with opposing team's players, challenge the validity of certain media reports and be verbose on the field. He cannot continue to represent the Lions in a poor way off the field, though. Negative fan interactions are one thing, but now, Raiola is verbally abusing people who were guests of the Packers at Lambeau Field. Regardless of what was said to him, he simply has to turn the other cheek and continue on his way. From this point on, that's imperative.
The Lions already have major problems in the court of public opinion given national assumptions that they're a dirty team and questions about the general personal cleanliness of Ndamukong Suh. The last thing the team needs is more needless negative press from Raiola to cast a pall over the franchise further.
As a veteran, Raiola is a team leader and must be someone rookies can look up to. Sunday's actions in Green Bay were simply unacceptable. Credit the Lions for their quick apologies and their part in helping to resolve an unfortunate situation.
For Raiola himself, it's time to start walking the walk of his words from every staged press release.
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