Punting and exciting are two words you usually don’t think of synonymously, unless you are talking about Matt Araiza.
Araiza averaged 51.2 yards per punt at San Diego State during the 2021 season to lead the nation and set a new NCAA record. He regularly sent the ball in the air 60-70 yards, including one punt that went 90 yards in the air at Hawaii. Araiza let the ball fly near his own 10 yard line and it ended up in the end zone.
The Buffalo Bills drafted Araiza in the 6th round of the 2022 NFL Draft. In his first ever kick in a preseason game, he punted the ball 75 yards in the air and it landed 82 yards away. I can’t say I’ve ever looked forward to a punt, but Araiza was the exception.
Araiza never made the Bills roster that year. He has never kicked in an NFL game. No other team signed him.
Araiza was one of three football players named in a civil lawsuit that accuses them of raping a 17-year-old girl in 2021 while they attended San Diego State. The teenager said that the three men took turns raping her during a Halloween party at an off-campus house in October 2021, while she was “observably intoxicated.”
It’s a serious and sensitive subject. The problem is that evidence released earlier this week, including video, has proven that Araiza was not involved.
An allegation is just that, a claim that someone has done something wrong. In this situation, it turned out that the allegations against Araiza were false. Now his reputation and career are ruined for something he didn’t do.
When a woman comes forward with rape allegations, they should be taken seriously. At the same time, we should be patience enough to let the process play out to find the truth.
For Matt Araiza, he was fired from his job. Now the question is, will anyone give him a second chance?
The San Diego County prosecutor never charged him with a crime because the woman’s story didn’t add up. The district attorney’s office met twice with the teenage accuser, interviewed 35 witnesses and examined DNA evidence before deciding not to prosecute.
According to the New York Times, “Prosecutors said they did not believe that Araiza was still at the party when the alleged group rape happened, based on the testimony of one witness. They established a timeline of the night based on video clips taken by some of the men involved in the alleged assault.
Prosecutors were also not able to prove that the men accused of rape knew that the girl was under 18 or that she was too intoxicated to consent.
Araiza admitted having sex with the woman that night during a call with the woman that was recorded by police a few days after the party. It happened at the side of the house. Araiza said he never went inside, disputing the woman’s lawsuit, which said he led her inside and threw her on the bed face-first.
“We had a brief encounter, and it is absolutely not how it’s been portrayed in the media or the lawsuit,” Araiza said in his interview with USA TODAY Sports.
He was 21 at the time and the woman was 17, leading to questions about whether he committed statutory rape of a minor. A suspect is not guilty of this crime if he reasonably believed the woman was 18 or older, according to law. Araiza said he believed she was 18.
The woman told USA TODAY Sports she told Araiza she went to “Grossmont,” which also can be interpreted to mean Grossmont College, which is about seven miles from SDSU.
“I didn’t say my age at all and nobody asked me,” she told USA TODAY Sports. “Matt didn’t ask me. None of the guys asked me. Nobody at the party asked me, so I just wasn’t prompted and I didn’t answer.”
The Bills were in a tough spot, but decided to let Araiza go instead of suspending him indefinitely.
Many NFL players have done much worse things than be falsely accused and gotten second, third and fourth chances.
There’s no reason why Matt Araiza shouldn’t be on an NFL roster by the time spring training arrives in July. I just wouldn’t hold my breath.