The Buffalo Bills have released punter Matt Araiza, the former San Diego State star accused in a lawsuit of raping a 17-year-old girl last year, the NFL team announced Saturday night.
“This afternoon, we decided that releasing Matt Araiza was the best thing to do,” said Bills GM Brandon Beane. “Our culture in Buffalo is more important than winning football games.”
ESPN reported that though Araiza did travel with the Bills to Charlotte for a Friday game against the Carolina Panthers, he was not seen on the sideline to start the game.
Regarding allegations that he and two other then-SDSU players raped an underage girl at an off-campus house party in October, Araiza said in a statement obtained by ESPN, “The facts of the incident are not what they are portrayed in the lawsuit or in the press. I look forward to quickly setting the record straight.”
Araiza, a San Diego native dubbed “Punt God” for the accuracy and distance of his kicking, was drafted by the Bills earlier this year.
In a Thursday statement, the Bills said, “We were recently made aware of a civil complaint involving Matt from October 2021. Due to the serious nature of the complaint, we conducted a thorough examination of this matter. As this is an ongoing civil case, we will have no other comment at this point.”
The lawsuit filed Thursday alleges Araiza, Zavier Leonard and Nowlin “Pa’a” Ewaliko raped the then-17-year-old last October while she was heavily intoxicated.
No arrests have been made in the case, though the San Diego Police Department said it has completed its investigation and submitted the results of the probe to the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office for review and possible filing of criminal charges.
In the complaint, the teen — identified as Jane Doe — says she attended a Halloween party on Oct. 17 with three friends at a house where Araiza lived.
The suit alleges Araiza “could observe that Doe was heavily intoxicated” but handed her a drink, which the complaint says contained not just alcohol, but also “other intoxicating substances.”
It also alleges Doe informed Araiza that she was attending high school at the time.
Later, the suit alleges Araiza led her to the side yard of the house and had sex with her, then took her to a bedroom where at least three other men were present, “including defendants Leonard and Ewaliko.”
The suit alleges Araiza threw her onto a bed and multiple men raped her over the course of 90 minutes while she “went in and out of consciousness.”
After reporting the incident to police, the suit states that detectives arranged for her to make “pretext” phone calls with the men.
During a call with Araiza, the suit alleges he “confirmed having sex with Doe, even telling her that she should get tested for STDs.” When she asked him directly again whether they had sex, he allegedly said, “This is Matt Araiza. I don’t remember anything that happened that night” and immediately hung up.
City News Service contributed to this report.