WARNING: Graphic content
Punter Matt Araiza has been sacked by the Bills after a lawsuit was filed last week accusing him of gang-raping a teenager, Buffalo general manager Brandon Beane has announced.
The 22-year-old rookie faces a civil lawsuit that was filed Friday (AEST), which claimed that Araiza and two of his San Diego State football teammates raped a 17-year-old girl who said she was intoxicated to the point she was slipping in and out of consciousness.
The incident reportedly took place last year at an off-campus party.
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The lawsuit also claimed the punter gave the victim a drink at a party that “not only contained alcohol, but other intoxicated substances”, The New York Post reports.
Before the Bills decided to release Araiza, the team said it was aware of the allegations about Araiza last month and had been looking into the situation.
According to The Athletic, the Bills “did not know” when they picked Araiza in the sixth round of the 2022 NFL Draft.
Araiza said in a statement Saturday (AEST) before being released the incident is not “what they are portrayed in the lawsuit or in the press.”
Araiza, nicknamed the “Punt God” for his explosive punts during his time at San Diego State, was expected to be the Bills’ starting punter after playing well during the pre-season – and after the team waived Matt Haack.
Araiza’s lawyer denied the allegations, claiming his client’s new-found status prompted the accusations.
“It’s a shakedown because he’s now with the Buffalo Bills,” lawyer Kerry Armstrong told The New York Times.
“There is no doubt in my mind that Matt Araiza ever raped that girl.”
The other two individuals named in the suit are Zavier Leonard and Nowlin “Pa’a” Ewaliko.
Armstrong told the outlet he does not believe the woman was intoxicated.
A record-breaker in college, Araiza recently won Buffalo’s starting punting job after turning eyes in pre-season, including an 82-yard rocket in the team’s first pre-season game. The kick went viral, bringing his “Punt God” moniker and persona to new levels in the NFL.
In college, Araiza earned unanimous All-American honours and won the Ray Guy Award, given to the nation’s best punter, during his junior season. He set multiple NCAA punting records, including kicks over 50 yards and punts over 60 yards in a season. He led the country in average distance per punt as well.
Araiza’s standout collegiate play earned him a sixth-round selection in the 2022 NFL Draft — a rarity for a kicking specialist to even be drafted — taken by the Bills. After the team released veteran Matt Haack, Araiza’s starting job was seemingly secured.
San Diego State has faced scrutiny after a recent Los Angeles Times report found the school did not properly alert and investigate the allegations, instead waiting seven months.
Per the report, records show questions were raised about the school’s eagerness to question or punish Araiza amid the team’s successful season.
“99% of the football players are aware of the 5-person rape so the rest of the student-athletes are left wondering why nothing is being done,” one student reportedly said.
The Bills have not yet released a statement.
This story first appeared in the New York Post and was republished with permission.