Who Is Former Buffalo Bills Punter, Matt Araiza?

This article contains content relating to sexual assault.

Though the NFL is packed with talent, only few teams have an enduring legacy of success. When Tom Brady came to Foxborough in 2000, he kickstarted the era of the New England Patriots, winning his team six Super Bowls over a two-decade tenure. Before Brady, no other quarterback had ever played in five Super Bowls, according to Sports Illustrated. San Francisco 49ers legend Joe Montana and Terry Bradshaw both have four rings to their name, but neither come close to Brady's status as the GOAT.

As of this writing, the Kansas City Chiefs and the Buffalo Bills have both been lauded as Super Bowl contenders, thanks to their major offensive firepower in the form of Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen. The two quarterbacks faced off in the 2021 playoffs — and though Mahomes' team emerged victorious, he was later knocked out by the Cincinnati Bengals. Now, in the 2022-2023 season, the Bills may be out for some sweet vindication, per NY Sportsday. CBS Sports writer Chris Trapasso even predicted a Bills Super Bowl victory as early as August. Still, while the Bills might currently be one of the league's shining stars, they've weathered their own controversy, thanks to rookie punter Matt Araiza.

Matt Araiza was one of the most famous punters to enter the NFL draft

Many fans were already aware of Matt Araiza because of his stellar career at San Diego State, where he was known as the "Punt God." In 2021, the athlete averaged an NCAA record of 51.2 yards per punt and won the Ray Guy Award, which is annually given to the best collegiate punter. According to AP News, Araiza led the country with "six punts of at least 70 yards," including the longest to date at 86 yards. Despite his reputation, Araiza was the first pick in the sixth round draft, and only the third punter chosen — behind two others who had arguably less impressive statistics. He did not take it well. "The people who know me know that I take a lot of things very personal[ly]," he said during a media interview, per Yahoo! Sports. "We'll just say I have a lot of motivation to dominate this season."

And dominate he did, at least initially. Araiza made his NFL debut in spectacular fashion, kicking an 82-yard punt that cemented him as a top punter. But he wasn't long for the league. The New York Times reported that the Buffalo Bills cut Araiza in August following accusations that he had raped a minor. "We don't know all the facts ... but at this time, we think it is the best move for everyone to move on from Matt and let him take care of this situation," team manager Brandon Beane said.

Matt Araiza was accused of rape

As of August, a teenager identifying only as Jane Doe filed a lawsuit against Matt Araiza that claimed he'd raped her at a Halloween party in 2021, according to TMZ Sports. In the lawsuit, Jane Doe alleged that Araiza and two of his then-teammates on the San Diego State football team participated in the rape while she was intoxicated. Araiza's criminal defense attorney, Kerry Armstrong, did not comment on the accusations, but in an interview with a San Diego TV reporter, denied that Araiza had forced the girl to have sex. "I think this is a money grab on her part. She sees some dollar signs at the end of the highway," he said, adding that the victim may have only been accusing Araiza because he was a high-profile member of the Buffalo Bills team.

As for Araiza, he denied the claims. In a statement through his agent obtained by The New York Times, he said, "The facts of this incident are not what they are portrayed in the lawsuit or the press. I look forward to setting the record straight." This did not mesh with the events recorded in the victim's journal, excerpts of which her lawyer, Dan Gilleon, shared on Twitter. In a tape-recorded call with the police, Araiza also admitted to having had sex with the victim, per The New York Times.

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

How has the NFL responded?

The NFL has a troubled history of dealing with sexual abuse and sexual assault cases, and Matt Araiza's lawsuit led the Buffalo Bills to drop him from the roster in late August, per CBS Sports. In a statement to the Los Angeles Times, the team said, "Due to the serious nature of the complaint, we conducted a thorough investigation of this matter." Bills GM Brandon Beane also told the press that the situation was "bigger than football," alluding to potential change on the horizon. Likewise, the Bills' head coach Sean McDermott did not answer questions about Araiza's future with the team, but only stressed the point there was "work to do," saying, "I'm not going to go into [Matt's situation] right now," per The Buffalo News. "It's clear ... we have ... [to] figure this thing out."

The NFL's personal conduct policy does not address cases that occurred before players and coaches joined the league, so it will not be investigating Arazia further. However, the Bills' disciplinary response signals hope for reform. It also comes in the wake of the NFL's settlement with star quarterback Deshaun Watson, who was accused by multiple women of sexual misconduct. According to Fox Sports, Watson has since been suspended and fined $5 million.