Matt Araiza’s 16-month nightmare looks to be finally coming to an end.
The former San Diego State University and Buffalo Bills punter was recently dropped from a civil lawsuit alleging he raped a then-17-year-old intoxicated girl at an off-campus party in 2021, and with that he said he plans to return to the NFL to reignite his punting career.
“When I was cut, I was an NFL starter, had just beat out an NFL veteran. I was on a 4-year contract and that wont be handed back to me. No one in the NFL is going to go, ‘Here’s the job that you once had,’ so working to regain where I was at is my primary goal right now,” Araiza said at a Dec. 13 conference, as reported by Fox 5 San Diego.
“I’m confident that I will be able to regain my NFL career — whenever that is. I believe it’s more of an when, not an if.”
Araiza was a highly successful punter at SDSU, considered one of the best college punters in the nation, but he lost his position with the Bills amid a media firestorm over the allegations. Later, Araiza and two of his Aztec football teammates were cleared of criminal charges for the alleged gang rape, The College Fix reported in December 2022.
Araiza always maintained his innocence, and in May of this year it came to light he was not even at the party at the time the teen was allegedly raped by two of his teammates. The San Diego District Attorney’s office also told the accuser there is no proof to back up her claims despite videos from the party, 35 taped witness interviews, DNA test results, and evidence derived from 10 search warrants.
Over the summer, Araiza filed a defamation lawsuit against the accuser, known as Jane Doe, that alleged she knowingly made false statements to police about being raped by Araiza, Fox 5 San Diego reported. As part of the agreement to remove Araiza from the rape lawsuit, he agreed to drop his defamation suit, the news outlet reported.
A statement released by Araiza’s attorneys, Dick Semerdjian and Kristen Bush, that was published Dec. 12 by CBS 8 states he is “reserving his right to pursue the plaintiff’s attorney, Dan Gilleon, and his law office for the harm that they have caused him.”
“While we are here celebrating this victory with Matt and his family, the win is bittersweet. Matt has been forced to defend himself for the last sixteen months against false accusations and a campaign to ruin his career in the NFL. He will never get this time in his life back,” the attorneys said.
“We cannot overstate the importance to our system of justice of the presumption of innocence. Matt has always maintained his innocence, despite the public outcry that resulted when he was falsely accused of crimes and civil assault. Thankfully, there was extensive evidence that was key to securing Matt’s voluntary dismissal from this lawsuit. Matt was and has always been innocent. The case is over, and Matt has prevailed. He now has the full intention of returning to the NFL in hopes of resuming a successful punting career.”
At his press conference, Araiza said he is very frustrated by the guilty-until-proven-innocent mentality that permeates the country.
“This idea that society has that the second someone files a lawsuit it’s completely true and we must take action based on what’s alleged — I disagree with it,” Araiza reportedly said. “Professional sports teams, as well as college teams, should have the backbone to say, ‘Look we take these allegations seriously, but until allegations are proven, we can’t cut our guy. We can’t push somebody out who’s worked their whole life to be here.’”
The civil lawsuit against Araiza’s two former teammates remains ongoing.
IMAGE: YouTube screenshot