ORCHARD PARK, NY — The Buffalo Bills have released punter Matt Araiza two days after a civil lawsuit was filed alleging he and two other current and former San Diego State football players had gang-raped minors.
Araiza was absent from practice on Saturday after being eliminated in Friday’s preseason game against the Carolina Panthers and was not on the sidelines during the game or in the locker room after the game. He traveled on the team plane back to Buffalo, NY.
In a press conference after the game Friday, coach Sean McDermott declined to comment on Araiza’s status or exactly what the team knew before the lawsuit was filed. McDermott said “some” new information had been learned in the 24 hours since the charges were filed, but declined to comment if he believed Araiza had lied to him or the team.
“It’s just a matter of trying to find the truth at the end of the day, right,” McDermott said. “That’s the goal is to find the truth and do the right thing. And that’s what I keep coming back to in my mind and my heart is to get the truth as best I can and do the right thing.”
In a statement released Thursday, the team said they “have thoroughly investigated this matter”.
The lawsuit alleges that Araiza, who was 21 at the time, had sex with a then 17-year-old high school student, who was a minor in California, outside of an off-campus party held at his home in the United States. early morning of October 17, 2021. Later, the lawsuit alleges, Araiza then took her inside, where at least three other men, including the other two defendants named in the lawsuit, Zavier Leonard, a red-shirt freshman Aztec freshman, and Nowlin Ewaliko, who is no longer on the team’s roster, was found. She was then repeatedly raped for more than an hour and a half.
Araiza’s criminal defense attorney, Kerry Armstrong, told ESPN that his client has spoken to the girl at the party, but the rape allegations are “simply untrue.”
Armstrong also said he understands that Araiza did not inform the Bills about the matter until an LA Times article published on June 3 reported that allegations of rape against five Aztec football players had not been investigated by the state of San Diego.
McDermott declined to comment at the time the Bills became aware of the allegations.
A criminal investigation into the alleged events is underway, as well as an investigation by the State of San Diego under California State University’s system-wide policy.
The NFL said in a statement it was aware of the incident but declined to comment. Because the alleged rape happened before Araiza was called up, he would not be subject to the league’s personal conduct policy.
The Bills released punt Matt Haack, the team’s 2021 punter, on Monday, naming Araiza the team’s punter for the 2022 season. He was the only punter on the team’s roster with quarterback Matt Barkley punting four times for the bills against the Panthers.
Araiza was drafted by the Bills in the sixth round of the 2022 NFL drawing.