Bills releases punter Matt Araiza after alleged gang rape

By JOHN WAWROW
AP Sports Editor

ORCHARD PARK, NY (AP) — A major public backlash coupled with graphic details contained in a lawsuit alleging Matt Araiza’s involvement in a gang rape of a teenage boy last fall has left the Buffalo Bills general manager Brandon Beane has no choice but to release the rookie from the punter squad on Saturday.

The decision to cut ties with the 22-year-old represents a major turnaround for the Bills, coming two days after backing the player based on the findings of what the team called its “thorough review” of the allegations filed in the trial.

And it comes less than a week after the Bills – despite knowing he was the target of a police investigation – cleared the way for Araiza to take over punting duties by removing returning veteran Matt Haack. Monday.

“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’s been through,” Beane said during a 26-minute press conference, as he sat alongside coach Sean McDermott.

“But right now we just think it’s the best decision for everyone to let Matt and let him deal with this situation and focus on that. So, we’re going to part ways there,” Beane added.

Beane said the Bills were unaware of the allegations against Araiza when they selected him in the sixth round of the draft in April. And if they had known, he said, they would have dismissed him from consideration.

Araiza’s release is beginning to ease a crisis that has rocked the two-time AFC East champions. McDermott was visibly upset as he discussed the situation after a 21-0 preseason loss to Carolina on Friday night.

“I’m hurt,” McDermott said. “It’s not easy to hear about some of the things I’ve heard about over the past few hours. I haven’t slept much to be honest with you.

The Bills began distancing themselves from Araiza as early as Friday when he was barred from playing. He instead watched the game from an undisclosed location in the stadium rather than from the touchline with his teammates.

On Saturday, Araiza was not present for practice even though the Bills said he was on their roster, while at the same time his No. 19 jersey was no longer available for sale on the store in Bills line after being listed earlier in the day.

Araiza’s only comment since the complaint was filed came in a statement released by his agent during Friday’s game.

“The facts of the incident are not what they are portrayed in the trial or in the press. I look forward to quickly setting the record straight,” Araiza said.

In a text to The Associated Press, Araiza’s attorney, Kerry Armstrong, defended his client, writing, “I’m sure he’s very upset and disappointed that his career with the Bills ended not because he played badly, but because of false allegations made against him. him by a young woman and her lawyer. I hope he will be back in the NFL soon.

Victim’s attorney Dan Gilleon released his own statement saying the Bills ignored concerns he raised about Araiza when they contacted the team in late July.

“The Buffalo Bills had no choice but to cut their young punter after they botched their response to our claim so badly,” Gilleon said. “They ignored us, (when) I warned them it could be avoided if they just kept their heads in the sand. This is what facilitators do.

Beane said the team had done everything possible to get as many details as possible, while noting that many allegations were not available because the results of the San Diego police investigation had not been released. published. He said the team decided not to “rush to judgment” based on the information they had, while noting that Araiza never changed his version of what happened.

“You want to give everyone as much due process as possible. Again, we are not judge and jury,” Beane said.

The lawsuit in San Diego County Superior Court accused Araiza and two San Diego State teammates of raping a 17-year-old girl during a Halloween party at an off-campus house where Araiza lived.

The results of the police investigation are in the hands of the district attorney, although there is no timeline as to when a decision will be made on whether to press charges.

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.

Beane said it was unclear who – Araiza or the victim’s attorney, Gilleon – informed the team of the allegations first. As for the decision not to contact Gilleon for more information, Beane said team attorney Kathryn D’Angelo “heard what he had to say, and that’s when where we started our process”.

Beane said Araiza’s version of what happened never changed.

“We are not perfect. But I can tell you we just tried to do what was right,” Beane said. “Deep in our hearts, I can lay my head at night knowing that I’ve tried to do what’s right.”

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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Associated Press writer Julie Watson and AP Pro Football writer Rob Maaddi contributed to this report.

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