Buffalo Bills release punter Matt Araiza in wake of gang-rape lawsuit

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 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 concluded. 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 prior to the lawsuit being filed. McDermott did say that there was “some” new information learned in the 24 hours since the suit had been filed but did not comment if he felt 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 find the truth and do the right thing. And that’s what I keep coming back to in my mind and my heart is 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, of having sex with a then-17-year old high school senior, who was under the age of consent in California, outside an off-campus party held at his residence in the early morning of October 17, 2021. Later, the suit claims, 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 is no longer on the team’s roster, were located. She was then repeatedly raped for about an hour and a half.

Araiza’s criminal attorney, Kerry Armstrong, told ESPN that his client spoke with the girl at the party but that the rape allegations are “just untrue.”

Armstrong also said that it is his understanding that Araiza did not inform the Bills of this issue until after an LA Times article, published June 3, reported that rape allegations against five Aztecs football players had not been investigated by San Diego State.

McDermott declined to comment on when the Bills became aware of the allegations.

A criminal investigation is ongoing into the alleged events as well as an investigation by San Diego State under the California State University systemwide policy.

The NFL said in a statement that it was aware of the incident but declined to comment. Because the alleged rape happened before Araiza was drafted, he would not be subject to the league’s personal conduct policy.

The Bills released 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 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 draft.

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