The Buffalo Bills released rookie punter Matt Araiza two days after he was accused in a civil lawsuit of raping a 17-year-old girl, the team announced Saturday.
“The last 48 hours has been very difficult, for a lot of people. It’s been very tough,” Bills general manager Brandon Beane said at a press conference Saturday. “We sympathize with this whole situation, all the parties involved. This young woman, what she went through. You really feel bad for that whole situation. Ultimately, this is a legal situation – we don’t know all the facts. That’s what makes it hard.
“But at this time, we just think it’s the best move for everyone to move on from Matt and let him take care of this situation and focus on that, so we’re going to part ways there.”
The Bills held Araiza out during the team’s final preseason game against the Carolina Panthers on Friday.
Head coach Sean McDermott said that he had been informed about the accusation, but did not go into details about when the team learned about it or if the punter had been untruthful when they talked to him.
The civil suit filed Thursday in San Diego County Superior Court alleges Araiza, then 21 and a member of the San Diego State football team, had sex with an inebriated 17-year-old high school senior outside of an off-campus party in October 2021 before bringing her inside a room where she was allegedly assaulted by multiple men for nearly 90 minutes.
LAW SUITE: Buffalo Bills rookie Matt Araiza accused of involvement in gang-rape of a minor
“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,” Beane said. “There are many things that we could not get our hands on. This was about letting Matt go handle his situation. This is bigger than football.”
Attorney:Bills never spoke to the woman who accused Matt Araiza of rape
Araiza was selected by Buffalo in the sixth round of the 2022 NFL draft in late April after playing at San Diego State. He was a first-team All-American and won the Ray Guy Award given to the nation’s best punter.
“Matt is very disappointed that his career with the Bills ended not because he played poorly, but because of false allegations leveled against him by a young lady and her attorney,” Araiza’s attorney, Kerry Armstrong, wrote in a statement to USA TODAY Sports. “I hope he is back in the NFL soon. He deserves to be, as he is the hardest-working twenty-two-year-old I know.”
Dan Gilleon, the teen’s attorney, criticized Armstrong in a statement issued to USA TODAY Sports following Araiza’s release.
“Mr. Araiza’s legal counsel had the audacity to go on a despicable, brainless TV tour to defame my client as a ‘shakedown’ artist and ‘money grabber.’ Think about that,” Gilleon wrote. “Mr. Araiza’s legal agent knew that a 17 year old girl had left a room where Matt Araiza was also present, covered in blood and bruises and crying that she had been raped. Yet, he stooped so low that he was willing to label that 17 year old girl an opportunistic grifter. This was utterly inhumane and stunningly foolish.
“If Matt Araiza had shown 1% of the grace that my client has, perhaps by offering an apology and donating his money to a charity serving rape survivors, he would still be a Buffalo Bill and his parents could sit in the stands and watch their son with pride. Instead, he decided to hire an attorney who knew only to viciously attack the young woman his client had raped.
“Now Mr. Araiza’s life is forever scarred too. Perhaps this is the self-inflicted justice he deserves.”
According to the lawsuit, the teen drank with friends before attending a Halloween party the night of Oct. 16-17 at an off-campus home where Araiza lived. She said Araiza, who was 21 years old at the time, gave her a drink she believed “not only contained alcohol, but other intoxicating substances” despite her saying she was in high school, the suit adds.
The lawsuit says Araiza took the intoxicated teen to the side of the house and told her to perform oral sex on him before he “pulled her up from the ground, turned her around facing away from the party, and” penetrated her from behind. Then Araiza allegedly took her to a bedroom where his teammates took turns raping her for an hour and a half. The teen said she went in and out of consciousness during the sexual assault, the complaint says.
Zavier Leonard and Nowlin “Pa’a” Ewaliko were also named in the lawsuit. Both are no longer listed on the San Diego State football roster.
Contributing: Jace Evans