ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (WIVB) — The Bills announced Saturday night that they have released punter Matt Araiza.
On Thursday, a civil lawsuit was filed in California alleging that he and two former San Diego State University teammates raped a 17-year-old girl at a party in October 2021.
Araiza released a statement Friday night through his agent, which was obtained by News 4, stating: “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.” He was held out of Friday night’s preseason game against the Carolina Panthers.
“We don’t have all the facts and that’s what makes it hard. But at this time, we think it’s the best move for everyone to move on from Matt and let him take care of this situation,” general manager Brandon Beane said Saturday.
Beane said that the team found out about the accusations in late July, from the plaintiff’s representatives. Her attorney, Dan Gilleon, has said that he first notified the team around that same time.
“It’s bigger than football,” Beane said. “It’s something you have to respond to. We’re not the judge and the jury but again, it’s bigger than football.”
Beane added that the team found out about the allegations through Kathryn D’Angelo, the team’s assistant legal counsel.
“One of those things on there, if true, would be a no-go for us. We just needed to put as many facts together as we could in a limited amount of time,” Beane said. “Obviously, Matt’s version was different and you want to give everyone as much due process as you can.”
Beane said that to the team’s understanding, Araiza found out “around” the same time that the team did that he was under investigation and hired his attorney, Kerry Armstrong. According to a text message exchange that was tweeted by Gilleon, Armstrong said “[Araiza’s] very nice parents have asked me to reach out to you and ask what number your client is looking for.”
“As Brandon said, we’ve tried to sort through a lot of information, it’s ongoing, and that to me has been one of the harder parts of this and that information continues to flow, it seems,” Bills head coach Sean McDermott said.
On Monday, the Bills had released Matt Haack, the other punter on the roster during training camp, three days before the lawsuit was made public. The release of Haack indicated that Araiza had won the starting job at punter.
“That’s a tough one,” Beane said. “You can second guess whether that was the right move and we’ll definitely look at that one going forward.”
Armstrong said to News 4 in a statement: “Matt 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. He deserves to be, as he is the hardest-working twenty-two-year-old I know.”
Gilleon said in a statement to News 4 on Araiza’s release: “The Buffalo Bills had no choice but to cut their young punter after so badly botching their response to our claim: they ignored us, as though what I warned them would happen could be avoided if they just kept their heads in the sand. This is what enablers do.
My client’s life was forever scarred in October 2021, but she handled herself with grace and dignity. Not once did she express to me a desire to hurt her assaulters out of revenge or hatred. She never asked for a pound of flesh. Her only ask was the kind of justice that might save other young women from the hell she experienced.
When she authorized me to contact Matt Araiza and the other defendants, she made it clear that money was not her aim. She never asked for a dime from Matt Araiza. Mr. Araiza’s attorney knew that. He knew that he had offered us money to settle the case and that we had rejected the offer. Yet, Mr. Araiza’s legal counsel had the audacity to go on a despicable, brainless tv tour to defame my client as a “shakedown” artist and “money grabber.” Think about that. Mr. Araiza’s legal agent knew that a 17 year old girl had left a room where Matt Araiza was also present, covered in blood and bruises and crying that she had been raped. Yet, he stooped so low that he was willing to label that the 17 year old girl an opportunistic grifter. This was utterly inhumane and stunningly foolish. If Matt Araiza had shown 1% of the grace that my client has, perhaps by offering an apology and donation his money to a charity serving rape survivors, he would still be a Buffalo Bill and his parents could sit in the stands and watch their son with pride. Instead, he decided to hire an attorney who knew only to viciously attack the young woman his client had raped. Now Mr. Araiza’s life is forever scarred too. Perhaps this is the self-inflicted justice he deserves.”
The Bills had drafted Araiza in the sixth round of the NFL Draft last April.
Watch the full press conference above.
This is a developing story, check back for updates.
Aidan Joly joined the News 4 staff in 2022. He is a graduate of Canisius College. You can see more of his work here.