Rookie NFL Punter Is Cut After Rape Allegation

Buffalo Bills release Matt Araiza, accused of assaulting a teen girl last year
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 26, 2022 8:06 AM CDT
Updated Aug 28, 2022 5:42 AM CDT
Lawsuit Raises Ugly Allegations About NFL Rookie
Buffalo Bills punter Matt Araiza on the sidelines of a preseason game on Aug. 13.   (AP Photo/Adrian Kraus)

Update: A rookie NFL punter is out of a job after being accused of rape by a teenager. The Buffalo Bills released 22-year-old Matt Araiza on Saturday, two days after a civil suit accused him and two other members of last year's San Diego State football team of raping a 17-year-old girl at an off-campus party, reports ESPN. The local district attorney is weighing criminal charges. Bills coach coach Sean McDermott said Araiza "seemed to understand, and I think when we spoke again this morning, that he agreed that was probably the best thing." Our story from Friday follows:

Original story: Another NFL player is embroiled in disturbing allegations of sexual assault. A lawsuit filed in San Diego on Thursday accuses rookie Buffalo Bills punter Matt Araiza of participating in the gang rape of a 17-year-old girl last year, reports the Los Angeles Times. At the time, Araiza was a star punter—with a nickname of the "Punt God"—at San Diego State. The teen in the lawsuit alleges that Araiza and two San Diego teammates took turns raping her while she was intoxicated for about 90 minutes at an off-campus party in October, per ESPN. The other two accused players are Zavier Leonard and Nowlin “Pa’a” Ewaliko.

None of the men have been arrested or criminally charged, though that could change. Detectives have submitted the results of their investigation to the San Diego County district attorney's office, which will make the call, per the Times. Araiza was drafted by the Bills after the alleged assault and won the position as starting punter this month. The Athletic reports that the Bills were not aware of the allegation when they drafted Araiza, but they were aware of it when they cut another punter and named Araiza the starter. The team declined to comment, citing the ongoing legal issues.

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An attorney for the 22-year-old Araiza denied the allegation. “It’s a shakedown because he’s now with the Buffalo Bills,” says Kerry Armstrong, adding that “there is no doubt in my mind” he is innocent. The alleged victim says that she was "inebriated" when she arrived at the party and that Araiza, aware she was in high school, gave her a drink that she believes was drugged. In the suit, the teen recalls drifting in and out of consciousness during the alleged assault, and she went to police the following day. Detectives had her make a phone call to Araiza, during which he acknowledged having sex with her and advised her to get tested for STDs, according to the lawsuit. (More NFL stories.)

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