The Buffalo Bills released rookie punter Matt Araiza last year after allegations arose claiming he took part in a sexual assault during his time in college at San Diego State University.
Now, a new report has cast doubt on some of those allegations and led to a backlash against the team. Yahoo Sports published a report based on the transcript of a meeting between a deputy district attorney and the accuser showing evidence that Araiza had left the party by the time an alleged gang rape took place. The story also said investigators found other evidence suggesting that the 17-year-old accuser had lied about her age, telling people she was 18. Araiza has denied all allegations.
The San Diego County District Attorney’s Office announced in December 2022 that neither Araiza nor his teammates would face criminal charges, ESPN reported. But Araiza was named in a civil lawsuit claiming he and two other former teammates raped the unnamed accuser at a party. Araiza’s civil trial is scheduled to begin in October 2023, Fox 5 San Diego reported.
Some are now criticizing the Bills for rushing to judgment on Araiza.
Some Say the Buffalo Bills Owe Matt Araiza an Apology
After the report from Yahoo Sports was published on May 8, some criticized the Bills for their decision to release Araiza, saying they owe him an apology.
“So do the @BuffaloBills owe Matt Araiza his full contract for completely caving to the bull**** allegations?” one person tweeted.
Others took aim at fans who criticized Araiza based on the allegations.
“Lots of bills fans owe Matt Araiza an apology but they won’t,” one fan tweeted.
Accuser’s Lawyer Responds to Report
Gilleon replied to a tweet about the Yahoo Sports article and disputed some of the claims. He said there was evidence showing that Araiza was still at the party when the alleged gang rape took place.
“During a pretext call set up by the police, Araiza states he was present for ‘the rest of the party’ and describes why it ended,” Gilleon tweeted on May 8.
Gilleon added in another tweet that the claim Araiza was not present for the alleged gang rape was “based on one witness statement from his friend.”
The Buffalo Bills Also Faced Backlash for Not Cutting Matt Araiza Sooner
The Bills also faced backlash from fans last August, shortly before Araiza was released, when reports indicated that they had been aware of the civil lawsuit for several weeks. The attorney representing the woman, Dan Gilleon, told ESPN that the Bills were made aware of the lawsuit in July but was not released until details became public the next month.
The Bills released veteran punter Matt Haack after they had learned about the lawsuit, setting up Araiza to go into the season as the starter.
Some fans were angry that the team did not immediately cut ties with Araiza after learning about the allegations.
“I just wrote to my season ticket rep about how I am disgusted to be a fan of the Bills right now,” one fan tweeted on August 25. “If you are pissed, you should write to your rep tonight or call them tomorrow. Cut Matt Araiza @BuffaloBills do not play him in Carolina.”
The Bills released Araiza two days later on August 27. They signed punter Sam Martin before the season began, and in March gave him a three-year contract extension.