We warn you, the details of the incident below are disturbing and graphic.
One of the most decorated punters in college football history, Matt Araiza’s NFL career came to an abrupt halt last summer when he and two San Diego State teammates were accused of gang-raping a 17-year-old girl at an off-campus party, resulting in a civil lawsuit and a high-profile police investigation. The Buffalo Bills quickly severed ties with him, effectively ending his career before it had even started.
Araiza would avoid charges, with prosecutors determining he was not present for the alleged gang rape, having left the party close to an hour before the alleged event took place. From Yahoo’s article last month on the findings:
“He wasn’t even at the party anymore,” deputy district attorney Trisha Amador explained. Later, Amador stated of the timeline of events, “All I know is that at that point, suspect Araiza is gone from the party.”
Ariaza has largely stayed silent throughout the investigation but has opted to share his version of events from that night as well as how it has impacted his playing career.
“I just didn’t see how people could do this. To make a lie, like that, about someone’s life, knowing the implications of it. I was in shock. And seeing everyone in the world believe it and knowing that they just completely got misled,” Araiza told HBO’s Andrea Kremer in an interview that will air Tuesday night on Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel. “No chance to defend myself. No waiting for the police to back any of these statements. Not waiting for the trial for anything to be proven in court. There was a feeling that society was sure about this. They were 100-percent sure.”
Even with Amador’s findings, the accuser’s attorney, Dan Gilliam is still pursuing legal action against Araiza, claiming he was part of a larger scheme to intoxicate and later, rape, the underage accuser. Gilliam also disputes Araiza’s claim that his client told him she was 18, which, under California law, would constitute statutory rape.
“The agency with the highest capacity to run an investigation is confident that I was not there and played no part in that. It’s validation,” said Araiza. “Believe all the other witnesses. Believe the videos. Believe the police that spent eight months on it. You don’t need to believe me.”
Araiza says he’s already hired an attorney in his defamation suit against the accuser and her attorney exhausting every available resource to help clear his name. “This attorney and plaintiff have taken absolutely everything from Matt. His job, his reputation, his name, his livelihood,” said Araiza’s mother, Kerry. “This child of ours is sitting home, unemployed. Unemployable. Cannot get back into the NFL. He has no idea what his future will be. So it’s cost him everything.”
Araiza admits having sex with someone he had known for all of 15 minutes was irresponsible, though he doesn’t think it should cost him his career. “Stupid, I agree,” said Araiza. “But not deserving of being labeled a gang rapist by every media outlet in the country. Not deserving of losing your job.”
Prior to his release, Araiza had signed a four-year, $3.876 million contract with Buffalo, of which only $216,148 was guaranteed. The former sixth-round pick remains a free agent, though he did attend a tryout for the New York Jets last month.
We’ll see in the coming months if Araiza’s participation in this segment helps open the door for a return to football or if teams will continue to stay away given the cloud over him from that night.
PSA: If you or anyone you know is in need, the National Sexual Assault Hotline can be reached at 1-800-656-4673.