Matt Araiza has been accused of participating in a gang rape at his residence last year.
NFL team the Buffalo Bills have released rookie punter Matt Araiza days after allegations emerged that he participated in the gang rape of a 17-year-old girl at his home last October.
The 22-year-old Araiza, who is known by the nickname ‘Punt God’ for the remarkable distance he generates in his kicks, was one of three men whose names were linked to the serious sexual assault in a lawsuit this week while he was a student athlete at San Diego State University.
The civil filing alleges that the girl, who was a high school student at the time, had sex with Araiza at a Halloween party at his residence, after which he brought her into a room which contained at least two other men where she claims she was repeatedly and violently raped.
The document also alleges that a mind-altering substance was potentially placed into an alcoholic drink she was consuming. She also states that several piercings to her nose, ear and naval were ripped from her body during the assault.
Araiza has denied the accusations.
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“We tried to be thorough and thoughtful and not rush to judgment, and I would say it’s not easy. You’re trying to put facts around a legal situation sometimes with limited information,” said Bills General Manager Brandon Beane of the situation.
He added: “Our culture in Buffalo is more important than winning football games.
“There are many things that we could not get our hands on. This was about letting Matt go handle his situation.”
In a statement of his own, Araiza said that the reporting of the case is inaccurate, and that he was looking forward to clearing his name.
His attorney, Kerry Armstrong, meanwhile, said that he felt the allegations stemmed from a desire to procure money from Araiza once he was drafted to the NFL.
“I 100% do not believe that he ever forcibly raped this girl or had sex with her while she was passed out or drunk or anything like that,” Armstrong said. “It’s unfortunate that she’s filed a civil suit. I think it’s a cash grab.”
The Bills decision to release Araiza comes a month or so after they were first made aware of allegations. Before the lawsuit was reported in the media in recent days, the team signalled their intent to continue playing Araiza after releasing his only competition for the punter position, Matt Haack, on Monday – a decision which hasn’t sat well with sections of the team’s fanbase.
“It’s not a situation we take lightly. I’m hurt, I understand they’re hurt,” head coach Sean McDermott said of the team’s support. “It’s not easy to hear about some of the things that I’ve heard about over the last several hours say. Haven’t slept a lot to be honest with you.”
Araiza was a sixth round selection by the Buffalo Bills in the 2022 NFL Draft. It is unclear at this point if he made the NFL or the teams who pursued him aware of the potential legal issues he was facing ahead of the draft.