What took so long?
The Buffalo Bills finally sent punter Matt Araiza out on the night out of work deal with the legal ramifications stemming from the alleged gang rape of a minor during his senior year in the state of San Diego.
This decision came on Saturday, two days after woman filed civil suit against Buffalo’s sixth-round pick and two of his former teammates, and the sordid affair exploded onto the national radar.
Shamefully, the Bills brain trust made the decision to part ways with a player accused of a heinous crime only after the trial became public. No criminal charges have been filed, pending an ongoing investigation that San Diego police have assigned to the district attorney.
To hear Bills GM Brandon Beane explain it, the team learned of the allegations in late July, when the woman’s attorney, Daniel Gilleon, briefed Buffalo’s attorney. Beane also said it’s possible the team first heard of the allegations from Araiza himself, who apparently learned earlier this summer that he was under investigation.
Beane maintained that he wasn’t sure if he heard it first from Araiza or the lawyer. But the GM was sure they told the bettor about it around the same time the lawyer contacted him.
So get this: the Bills put more weight on the word of an accused rapist than a traumatized girl seemingly seeking justice, and kept the bettor on their list.
“We were trying not to rush to judgment,” Beane said at a Saturday night press conference at team headquarters. “Obviously Matt’s version was different. You want to give everyone as much due process as possible. We are not judge and jury.
That seems much colder when you consider the details of the 11-page lawsuit which alleges that Araiza coerced an apparently intoxicated minor into performing oral sex last October at a party at his house near the campus of San Diego State. The lawsuit says he then took the girl to a room where he and other players allegedly took turns raping her.
Did the Bills even take the accusations seriously?
“I would say we took them very seriously,” coach Sean McDermott said. “I want everyone to understand this. It’s serious business here.
Just not serious enough to rush to some kind of judgment about having an accused rapist on the list.
Sometimes you have to rush – if not a rush to judgment, then a rush for information. Or a rush to hit the pause button. The seriousness of the allegations justified at least that.
Araiza’s attorney, Kerry Armstrong, called the lawsuit a “shakedown” for money.
Beane argued when news broke Thursday that the Bills were conducting a “thorough review.” It was so thorough that the team did not follow up with the girl’s lawyer.
It makes me wonder if the team, co-owned by Kim Pegula, one of the NFL’s highest-ranked women, would have moved if not for the tsunami of pressure that unfolded when the allegations became public. If the Bills, who have taken so many shrewd moves to build a Super Bowl contender, could have gotten away with keeping Araiza, at least while their “thorough review” continued, it sure looks like they would have. do.
But it backfired as a damaging blow to their process and their credibility.
Although Beane has used the word “thorough” since the start of this firestorm, he also admitted on Saturday that “we don’t have a lot going on.”
He was talking about facts, but not very convincingly. The lawsuit argues that Araiza confirmed in a phone call with the accuser, recorded by detectives, that he had sex with the minor and recommended that she get tested for sexually transmitted diseases.
It’s conceivable that the Bills were unaware of Araiza’s seemingly incriminating communication with the accuser. Although Beane said there were some things, on counsel’s advice, that could not be discussed at the press conference, he also defended the “thorough” investigation, arguing that without this is a criminal case, there was information about bills. not up to date.
“Right now,” Beane said, “there’s a lot of stuff that we can’t come full circle on.”
Well, they’ve come full circle on Araiza after what Beane described as an agonizing 48 hours.
Just 48 hours. Given the allegations, it should have been an agonizing month – and much longer for the accuser.
And think of the agony of the girl.
You would think that the Bills and the NFL, with all their investigative force, could have moved the ball on this case before now. Beane maintained that Araiza was never red-flagged during the pre-draft process, which is usually bolstered by reports from NFL Security, in addition to team security and investigative efforts. Beane said he spoke to at least 10 other teams in recent days to deduce if they had any information on off-pitch matters related to the player who went by the nickname ‘Punt God’.
At least the teams Beane spoke to had nothing, he said. What if the Bills, despite all the statements about the culture, knew something before the project?
“Anything that persisted would have been off our chart,” Beane argued.
But once something lingering caught their eye in July, the Bills were still on board with Araiza, who a few days ago won the starting punter job.