ORCHARD PARK, NY – The Buffalo Bills released a punter –Matt Araiza two days after a civil lawsuit was filed alleging that he and two other current and former San Diego State football players gang raped a minor.
Araiza was not at practice Saturday after being held out of Friday’s preseason game against the Carolina Panthers and was not on the sideline during the game or in the locker room after the game ended. He traveled back to Buffalo, NY on the team plane.
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 did say there was “some” new information learned in the 24 hours after the lawsuit was filed but did not comment on whether he felt Araiza lied to him or the team.
“It’s just trying to find the truth at the end of the day, right,” McDermott said. “That’s the goal of finding the truth and doing the right thing. And that’s what I keep coming back to in my mind and my heart is to find out the truth to the best of my ability and do the right thing.”
In a statement released Thursday, the team said they “conducted a thorough examination of this matter.”
The lawsuit alleges that Araiza, who was 21 at the time, had sex with a then-17-year-old high school senior who was under the age of consent in California outside of an off-campus party held at his residence in the early morning of the 17 on October 2021. Later, the suit alleges, Araiza then brought her inside the home, where at least three other men, including the other two defendants named in the suit, Zavier Leonard, a redshirt freshman with the Aztecs, and Nowlin Ewaliko, who are no longer in the roster of the equipment, have been located. She was then repeatedly raped for about an hour and a half.
Araiza’s criminal lawyer, Kerry Armstrong, told ESPN that his client spoke to the girl at the party but that the rape allegations are “just false.”
Armstrong also said it is his understanding that Araiza did not inform the Bills of this matter until after an LA Times article published on June 3 reported that rape allegations against five Aztecs football players had not been investigated by San Diego State .
McDermott declined to comment when the Bills became aware of the allegations.
A criminal investigation is ongoing into the alleged incidents as well as an investigation by San Diego State under the California State University system-wide policy.
The NFL said in a statement that it was aware of the incident but declined to comment. Because the alleged rape occurred before Araiza was drafted, he would not be subject to the league’s personal conduct policy.
The Bills released a punter Matt Haack, the team’s punter in 2021, on Monday, naming Araiza the team’s punter for the 2022 season. He was the only pitcher on the team’s roster with a 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 draft.