The Buffalo Bills released punter Matt Araiza, one of the NFL’s rising stars, on Saturday, days after he was charged in a civil lawsuit with raping a teenager at a college party.
The move was announced by team general manager Brandon Beane and head coach Sean McDermott. Beane said Araiza should focus on the allegations and that the alleged behavior would make the player “a no-go for us” if true.
The lawsuit, filed Thursday, details the plaintiff’s story of meeting Ariaza at an off-campus Halloween party on October 17, 2021, when he was playing for San Diego State University.
Araiza denies the allegations of rape and other facets of the lawsuit.
“The facts of the incident are not what they are portrayed in the lawsuit or in the press,” he said in a statement shared Friday night. Twitter by Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network. “I’m looking forward to setting the record straight soon.”
The lawsuit filed in the San Diego County Court alleges that Araiza, who was then 21, gave a then 17-year-old girl an alcoholic drink, asked for oral sex and had sex with her in a side yard before taking her to a bedroom, where he and two other men allegedly raped her.
She reported it to authorities the next day and was undergoing a rape investigation, the suit said. The school said the San Diego Police Department asked it to pause from starting its own Title IX investigation to give detectives some leeway.
At the beginning of this month, the San Diego Police Department sent the results of its investigation, without making any arrests, to the local district attorney, who said the case was still pending.
The state of San Diego said it wasn’t until July 22 that police said it was free to continue its own investigation.
The Buffalo Bills, who fielded backup quarterback Matt Barkley in place of Araiza during Friday night’s preseason game against the Carolina Panthers, said the suit was a surprise.
Drafted in the sixth round, Araiza came to Buffalo last year as the best punter in college football.
Araiza’s attorney, Kerry L. Armstrong, said by email Saturday night that Araiza is “very disappointed but not upset about the bills.”
“He remains positive and knows that he will eventually return to the NFL,” Armstrong said.
The team said in a statement Friday that it had recently been made aware of a civil complaint involving Araiza.
Beane reiterated that during a press conference on Saturday announcing that Araiza would be released. He also said the team became aware of the allegations in late July.
“We tried to be thorough and considerate and not to be hasty,” Beane said, adding that the information they had was limited.
He said a culture of following the law and good behavior is at the heart of the Bills and that if the team had been aware of the allegations, it would not have recruited Araiza.
“We didn’t know about this and the league didn’t know either,” said Beane.
“This is bigger than football,” Beane said.