Punter Matt Araiza, known by fans as the “Punt God,” has been released by the Buffalo Bills following allegations that he participated in the gang rape of a 17-year-old girl last year while attending San Diego State University.
Bills General Manager Brandon Beane told reporters on Saturday that the decision was not an “easy” one to make, according to the Washington Post’s NFL reporter, Nicki Jhabvala.
“We tried to be thorough and thoughtful and not rush to judgment, and I would say it’s not easy,” he said. “You’re trying to put facts around a legal situation sometimes with limited information.”
Bills GM Brandon Beane: "We tried to be thorough and thoughtful and not rush to judgment, and I would say it's not easy. You're trying to put facts around a legal situation sometimes with limited information."
— Nicki Jhabvala (@NickiJhabvala) August 27, 2022
The accusations against the 22-year-old punter are horrific.
According to the civil lawsuit, filed on Thursday in state court, Araiza raped the high school student outside a home at an off-campus Halloween party, the Los Angeles Times reported. He then took the girl inside, where she was allegedly repeatedly gang raped by Araiza and two fellow SDSU football players as she drifted in and out of consciousness.
Photos of the bruised and battered victim dominated news reports, as seen here from NBC Philadelphia:
Araiza’s lawyer, Kerry Armstrong, claimed the allegations are false and suggested the accusation was a bid to take advantage of Araiza’s position with the Bills. Though he had yet to read the complaint when he did so, he argued that witnesses his investigator spoke to contradict the high-school senior’s story.
“It’s a shakedown because he’s now with the Buffalo Bills,” he told The Associated Press.
“There’s no doubt in my mind” that his client did not rape the girl, he stressed.
The victim is seen here talking to CBS San Diego about the alleged rape, which she stated unequivocally was not consensual.
“I know I was not at fault. I know being a 17-year-old girl, almost unconscious 90 percent of the time in a room with several guys, bloody, and going in and out of consciousness is not something that was consensual,” she said.
When the Bills took the field for Friday’s preseason game, Araiza did not punt for the team, NBC Sports reports. During the game, he released a statement through his agent.
“The facts of the incident are not what they are portrayed in the lawsuit or in the press,” he said. “I look forward to quickly setting the record straight.”
According to reporter Mike Florio, “Araiza needs to do something, soon.”
“Because the incident happened before he was drafted, the NFL can take no action against him,” Florio explains. “However, he plays one of the most interchangeable positions in football. If the Bills are feeling too much heat for keeping him, it would be easy to find another punter — especially since the Bills have an offense that likely won’t require a great punter this year.”
During a 26-minute news conference, Beane expressed his sympathy for all involved in the scandal.
“The last 48 hours have been very difficult for a lot of people. It’s been tough. And we sympathize with this whole situation, all the parties involved, this young woman, what she went through,” he said. “But at this time, we just think it’s the best move for everyone to move on from Matt and let him take care of this situation and focus on that. So, we’re gonna part ways there.”
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