Bills rookie punter Matt Araiza, who has quickly risen to fame with a strong leg and a catchy nickname, faces a very serious off-field issue before his first NFL game.
According to the Los Angeles Times, Araiza is among the defendants in a civil lawsuit alleging gang rape. The other defendants are Zavier Leonard and Nowlin “Pa’a” Ewaliko. All three men were San Diego State football players at the time of the alleged incident.
The incident allegedly occurred last year, at an off-campus party. The alleged victim was 17 years old.
Araiza’s lawyer said the accusation is false, and he accused the plaintiff of making a “money grab.” (As we recently learned in the Deshaun Watson case, it’s always a money grab, until it isn’t.)
“It’s a shakedown because he’s now with the Buffalo Bills,” Kerry Armstrong told the Times. “There is no doubt in my mind that Matt Araiza ever raped that girl.”
There is an ongoing criminal investigation of the incident. No arrests have been made, and San Diego police have not publicly identified any suspects.
The Times previously reported that the university failed to alert the campus community about the alleged incident, and that the school waited more than seven months to launch an investigation.
“We were recently made aware of a civil complaint involving Matt from October 2021,” the Bills said in a statement to the Times on Thursday. “Due to the serious nature of the complaint, we conducted a thorough examination of this matter. As this is an ongoing civil case, we will have no other comment at this point.”
The NFL’s Personal Conduct Policy does not apply to incidents occurring before a player enters the NFL, either via the draft or by signing as an undrafted free agent. However, such allegations can become relevant to the punishment imposed for any off-field misconduct occurring after the player joins an NFL team.