Raiola put his name, face, emotion and heart into his response Wednesday to a second volley of criticism levied against him by what ProFootballWeekly has termed an “anonymous general manager.”
About two dozen media members were waiting at Raiola’s locker to hear his reaction, and he didn’t disappoint them.
Only the censors for print, video and audio outlets might have been unhappy. His colorful comments meant work for them.
Raiola was spiced with emotion and profanity.
“I’m not going to spend too much time on this because we’ve got a big game this week,” Raiola said, referring to Sunday’s road game against the Minnesota Vikings. “All I’ve got to say is to two people – whoever talked (crap), and the person who wrote it.
“Coward. Gutless. Balls-less. They’ve got no name. Anonymous. All I’ve got to say is bleep you. That’s it. Now we move on to Minnesota. That’s all I’ve got. If I spent any more time on it, that’s what they want. Bleep him, and bleep both of them.”
There was more -- a lot more. It sounded like what you might hear after a fender bender in a crowded parking lot in the middle of summer.
The brushfire between Raiola and ProFootballWeekly started last month when the online publication ran critical comments of the Lions in its regular “Audibles” column. Among other things, two anonymous GMs called Lions GM Martin Mayhew and head coach Jim Schwartz overrated.
Raiola was not a target of any criticism in the first story, but he has been fiercely loyal to the franchise and his teammates in 12 seasons as a Lion. He fired back for the comments being made anonymously.
“That’s kind of like a coward statement to me,” he said.
This week in PFW, one of the anonymous GMs countered with a scathing, personal attack on Raiola.
Among other things, he called Raiola “a complete fraud,” and concluded a lengthy rant with: “If he spent as much time working the other muscles of his body as he does his jaw, he might have had the chance to be an average backup. You can put that in print.”
But with no name attached, and that’s what inflamed Raiola further.
Raiola is recognized as a team leader and one of the Lions’ most dedicated players since coming to Detroit as a second-round draft pick in 2001. He became the starting center in 2002 and has missed only four of a possible 184 games.
“That speaks for itself,”Raiola said. “I don’t have to tell you what I did. People who know football, they know what I’ve been through here. They know where I come from. They know what kind of player I am, what kind of worker I am.
“I don’t have to explain anything.”
Agreed. And Raiola’s teammates came to his defense.
“No. I figured he’d handle it himself,” Stafford said Wednesday. “Dom doesn’t have to prove to anybody around here how he can play or what he’s worth to this team. We all know. He’s got the respect of everybody in this building, and that’s all he needs.”
There are side issues in the flap involving Raiola and PFW, and PFW comes out with a low grade.
It should be noted that PFW is not a start-up website operating out of someone’s basement. It has been in business since 1967 and is a known commodity in pro football circles. It has switched to an online publication in recent years.
PFW editor Hub Arkush has a solid background in both the print and broadcast media. On Tuesday, he issued an apology to the Lions and said the second anonymous comments in the Audibles column were “over the line.”
Anonymous sources are used in every phase of journalism – from covering sports to government officials giving background briefings, without their names being used. Using those sources is an acceptable practice in giving the public as much verifiable information as possible.
Most publications, including The Detroit News, where I worked for 43 years, require more than one source when using information that is off the record or from unnamed sources.
The anonymous personal attack on Raiola may have been titillating, and it surely brought web hits to PFW. But it was, as Arkush said, “over the line.” The proof is that the item was removed from the website, and Arkush felt the need to apologize.
Raiola wouldn’t accept the apology, and it’s hard to blame him. For one thing, it was sent to the Lions, with the comment from Arkush to “share it with Raiola.”
The apology would have been more sincere if it had been sent to Raiola, with the comment to pass it along to the Lions.
Raiola’s mood on the issue was best expressed with the message on the T-shirt he wore Wednesday.
“But Detroit doesn’t.”
What about Raiola?
“I’m part of Detroit,” he said. “So I don’t.”