The Buffalo Bills general manager Brandon Beane broke his silence on the lawsuit involving punter Matt Araiza on Saturday, August 27, during a press conference alongside head coach Sean McDermott, the latter of whom first spoke out on the matter on Friday night.
Araiza, a.k.a. “The Punt God,” was accused of gang raping a 17-year-old girl at an off-campus Halloween party on October, 17 2021, details of which were made public after the Los Angeles Times published the bombshell article on Thursday. While Araiza, 22, still traveled with the team to their preseason game against the Carolina Panthers on Friday night, on Saturday evening, Beane announced he was no longer a member of the Bills team.
“At this time, we just think it’s the best move for everyone to move on from Matt and let him take care of this situation and focus on that, so, we’re gonna part ways there,” Beane said during the news conference at the team’s headquarters.
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“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 went through. Really feel bad for that whole situation. Ultimately this a legal situation, we don’t know all the facts and that’s what makes it hard.”
It’s become clear that the Bills did not know about the lawsuit prior to selecting Araiza in the sixth round of the 2022 NFl Draft, although several other NFL teams did, per the AP‘s Rob Maadi. Beane said the team got the “boulders” of what was being accused by the young woman, identified only as Jane Doe in the civil suit, when her lawyer Dan Gilleon spoke to the Bills’ assistant general counsel, Kathryn D’Angelo on either July 30 or July 31. However, Beane also mentioned that Araiza might’ve said something about the accusations in June.
Immediately after the Times article was published on Thursday, the Bills put out an official statement that said the team conducted “a thorough examination of this matter,” for which Maadi wrote on Sunday, “clearly failed.” The fact that the team kept Araiza on the team, proceeded to make him the starting punter, and McDermott’s appearance on Pardon My Take during which he called Araiza “a great kid” while knowing the disturbing details of the accusation, is not sitting well with analysts across the league.
Democrat and Chronicle‘s Sal Maiorana wrote on Sunday, “Although Beane said the Bills truly were unaware that Araiza had been involved in anything like this while they were scouting him, putting him through their draft process, and ultimately selecting him in the sixth round of the 2022 NFL Draft, this is still an embarrassing moment… The Bills’ personnel and investigative staff, who are charged with vetting all players being considered for employment, did not get a sniff of this incident which took place in the fall of October 2021 and it is a black eye on the organization.”
USA Today‘s Jarret Bell was equally critical. Bell wrote, “Shamefully, the Bills’ brain trust made the decision to detach themselves from a player accused of a heinous crime only after the lawsuit became public.”
The AP’s John Wawrow tweeted, “There’s little doubt the #Bills flubbed the Azaria situation from, apparently, the moment they were informed of the allegations in late July. Some of this information was publicly available as early as June in an LA Times story,” which was published on June 3.
Beane told the media, “We’re trying to do our best. We don’t have all the answers. We’re not perfect. But I can tell you, as Sean said earlier, we just tried to do what was right. And has everything been perfect? No. But in our heart of hearts, I can lay my head down at night knowing that I’ve tried to do what’s right and I know he has too.”
Beane Said They Were ‘Trying Not to Rush Judgement’
As for why the Bills didn’t immediately release Araiza after they first became aware of the seriousness of the allegations, “We were trying not to rush to judgment,” Beane said. “Obviously, Matt’s version was different. You want to give everyone as much due process as you can. We’re not a judge and jury.”
Beane said that if the Bills did know about the accusations against Araiza prior to the NFL Draft, he would’ve never been selected. “We get things like this from guys, you know how important the character and the culture is to Sean and me,” Beane said. “And anything that would have been lingering, that would have (moved him) off our board.”
Beane, who’s been working as the Bills general manager since 2017, said he discussed the team’s decision with Araiza prior to the press conference. “Obviously he’s going through it right now. I mean it’s, you know, he’s got a lot going on. I think when we spoke again this morning that he agreed that that was probably the best thing. I appreciate him understanding.”
Araiza Lawyer Put Out a Statement Following His Release
Following Araiza’s release, his criminal defense attorney, Kerry Armstrong, who is not representing the San Diego State alum in the civil case, put out the following statement:
“I am sure he is very upset and disappointed that his career with the Bills ended not because he played poorly, but because of false allegations leveled against him by a young lady and her attorney. I hope he is back in the NFL soon.”
During the Bills preseason game in Carolina on Friday night, as reported by The Athletic’s Tim Graham, Araiza’s agent, Joe Linta, texted the following statement from the punter, “The facts of the incident are not what they are portrayed in the lawsuit or in the press. I look forward to quickly setting the record straight.”
Maadi reported on Sunday, “A San Diego police investigation has been turned over to the district attorney’s office to determine whether to pursue charges. DA spokeswoman Tanya Sierra said Friday there was no timeline as to how long a decision will take.”