Football player Matt Araiza dropped from woman’s rape lawsuit and won’t sue for defamation

SAN DIEGO (AP) — Former Buffalo Bills punter Matt Araiza is being dropped from a lawsuit filed by a woman who alleged she was raped by San Diego State University football players in 2021.

The woman agreed Tuesday to dismiss Araiza from the lawsuit she filed last year, while Araiza agreed to dismiss his defamation countersuit against her, his attorneys said in a statement.

He’ll be removed from the suit in the next week, won’t pay any money to the woman and reserves the right to sue her attorney for harm caused, the statement said, terming the agreement “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,” attorneys Dick Semerdjian and Kristen Bush said.

“Thankfully, there was extensive evidence that was key to securing Matt’s voluntary dismissal from this lawsuit,” the statement added. “Matt was and has always been innocent. The case is over, and Matt has prevailed.”

Araiza said Wednesday that the ordeal has “changed me a lot” and that he wants another shot at the NFL.

“My name, my reputation — this will be tied to me forever, that won’t go away,” he said at a news conference. “It was tough to watch the pain that it caused my family, because I have been proven innocent but they for sure had absolutely nothing to do with this.”

Araiza said he continues to work out.

“When I was cut, I was an NFL starter, had just beat out an NFL veteran. I was on a four-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. “I’m confident that I will be able to regain my NFL career — whenever that is. I believe it’s more of a when, not an if.”

The defamation lawsuit against the woman, described in court documents only as Jane Doe, was “legally baseless,” but her first legal bill topped $20,000 and she “simply cannot afford to defend herself,” her attorney, Dan Gilleon, said in a statement reported by the San Diego Union-Tribune.

“Plus she has been beat down by Araiza’s PR campaign and is frankly over it,” he said in a text, the news outlet reported.

The lawsuit against four other former San Diego State University players will continue.

An email from The Associated Press seeking comment from Gilleon wasn’t immediately answered Tuesday night.

Araiza was nicknamed the “Punt God” and honored as a consensus All-American in 2021 for his booming kicks that helped SDSU to a school-best 12-2 season in his senior year. He was selected by the Bills in the sixth round of the 2022 NFL draft but released two days after the filing of the lawsuit.

The woman alleged that she was 17 and attending an off-campus party in October 2021 when Araiza, then 21, had sex with her in a side yard at an off-campus house before bringing her into a bedroom where a group of men took turns raping her. She reported the alleged assault to San Diego police the next day.

Araiza has said he stayed in the backyard and never entered the home during the party and that he left nearly a half-hour before the alleged raping occurred.

He and most of the other players the woman is suing have said their encounters with her were consensual.

After a monthlong police investigation, the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office announced in December that it would not file criminal charges. Several media outlets obtained an audio recording of a meeting between prosecutors and the woman in which deputy District Attorney Trisha Amador said she concluded, based on a witness statement, that Araiza “wasn’t even at the party anymore” when the alleged raping could have occurred and wasn’t visible in videos that were recovered.

Earlier this year, the New York Jets hosted Araiza for a workout at the team’s facility, six days after a San Diego State investigation found no wrongdoing by him in connection with the alleged rape.


AP sports:

The Associated Press is an independent, non-for-profit news cooperative headquartered in New York City. Our teams in over 100 countries tell the world’s stories, from breaking news to investigative reporting. We provide content and services to