Bills releases punter Matt Araiza after alleged gang rape

WARNING: This article contains graphic content and may affect those who have experienced sexual violence or know someone who has.

Facing a major public backlash and internal questions over the decision to award Matt Araiza the punting job, the Buffalo Bills turned the tide by cutting the rookie on Saturday, two days after a lawsuit was filed alleging the gambler and two college gang-mates raped a teenage girl last fall.

The decision to cut ties with their sixth-round draft pick from San Diego State comes after Buffalo paved the way for Araiza to take over punting duties by releasing returning veteran Matt Haack on Monday.

The Bills then chose to keep Araiza despite being aware of the allegations against him since late July. The team then backed up the player by announcing that they « conducted a thorough review » of the matter a day after the complaint was filed.

Araiza’s release is beginning to ease a crisis that has rocked the team, as evidenced by coach Sean McDermott who struggles to contain his emotions while discussing the situation following a 21-0 pre-season loss to Carolina Friday night.

Without being specific, McDermott said he was unaware of some of the revelations that were made once the lawsuit was filed a day earlier, and repeatedly said the team had work to do. to do to discover the truth.

« It’s not a situation we take lightly. I’m hurt, I understand they’re hurt, » McDermott said in reference to Buffalo’s fanbase. « It’s not easy to hear about some of the things I’ve heard over the past few hours. I haven’t slept much to be honest with you. »

McDermott called to stop Araiza from playing against Carolina. The player watched the match from an undisclosed location while releasing a statement through his agent, Joe Linta, which read: « The facts of the incident are not what they are described in the lawsuit or in the press. I look forward to settling straight quickly. »

Without another punter on the roster, third-string quarterback Matt Barkley took care of punting duties.

A lawsuit filed in San Diego County Superior Court accused Araiza and two teammates of raping a 17-year-old girl at a Halloween party at an off-campus house where Araiza lived. A San Diego police investigation has been assigned to the district attorney’s office to determine whether to proceed with the prosecution. DA spokeswoman Tanya Sierra said Friday there was no timeline as to how long a decision will take.

In Buffalo, the focus is on why the Bills were unaware of the allegations against Araiza when the player was selected from San Diego State in the sixth round of the draft in April. Despite being the top punter in college football last year and earning the nickname « Punt God » due to a booming left leg, Araiza was the third punter selected in the draft.

It’s unclear whether Araiza informed the NFL of the allegations in the months leading up to the draft.

Executives from two different teams told The Associated Press they learned of Araiza’s involvement in an incident during the drafting process, but neither person knew the full extent of the allegations. Leaders of three other teams said they had no knowledge of the allegations against Araiza before the draft and only learned of the incident on Thursday. All of the people spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the issue.

While it’s unclear when the Bills first learned of the allegations, they knew in late July when Dan Gilleon, the attorney representing the alleged victim identified in the lawsuit as ‘Jane Doe’, contacted the counselor team legal, Kathryn D’Angelo. , by email.

« She looked worried. She said she would get back to me, but she never did, » Gilleon said. « I even followed up and said, ‘Hey, you didn’t talk to me and call me back like you said. And they just ignored it too.

Without saying when, Araiza’s attorney, Kerry Armstrong, said he also told his client to come clean and tell the Bills about the allegations. Armstrong said he has also stayed in regular contact with the Bills over the past month to provide details of his own investigation into what happened.

« I don’t 100% believe he ever forcibly raped that girl or had sex with her while she was passed out or drunk or anything like that, » Armstrong said.

The Bills also conducted what they called a « thorough review, » which ultimately led to their decision to cut Haack.

The Bills also informed the NFL of the incident once they were made aware of it, a person familiar with the situation told the AP. The person, speaking on condition of anonymity due to the sensitive nature of the matter, was unsure of the timeline.

The NFL declined to comment except to say it was aware of the matter.

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