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Today: April 22, 2024

Chiefs sign punter Matt Araiza, who was dropped from lawsuit in December after alleged rape

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AP
DAVE SKRETTA
February 22, 2024

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Kansas City Chiefs are signing punter Matt Araiza, who was dropped from a lawsuit in December that had been filed by a woman who alleged she was raped by San Diego State football players in 2021.

The signing was announced by Araiza's agent, Joe Linta, and confirmed a short while later by the team.

“I am proud and honored to sign a contract with the Chiefs,” Araiza said in a statement. “I am thrilled to be able to continue my NFL career. I want to thank my family, who have been my rock and my many friends who have been unwavering in their support. I am excited to begin the next phase of my career with the Super Bowl champs!”

Araiza earned the nickname the “Punt God” at San Diego State while earning All-America honors during the 2021 season, when his massive kicks helped the Aztecs go a school-best 12-2 his senior season. He was drafted by the Buffalo Bills in the sixth round of the 2022 NFL draft, but he was released two days after the woman filed her lawsuit.

She 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. The woman then claimed he brought her to a bedroom, where a group of men took turns raping her, but Araiza has said he never entered the home during the party and left before the alleged rape occurred.

The woman reported the alleged assault to San Diego police the following day, and her lawsuit was filed in August 2022.

Araiza and most of the other players named in the lawsuit claimed that their encounters with her were consensual.

After a month-long investigation, the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office said in December it would not file criminal charges. An audio recording was released 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 rape could have occurred and he wasn’t visible in videos that were recovered.

The woman agreed to dismiss Araiza from the lawsuit, and he agreed to dismiss a defamation countersuit against her.

“Matt has been forced to defend himself for the last 16 months against false accusations and a campaign to ruin his career in the NFL. He will never get this time in his life back,” Araiza's attorneys, Dick Semerdjian and Kristen Bush, said at the time.

Last 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. He did not sign with the team.

Araiza now appears to be getting his long-awaited shot in the NFL with a team coming off back-to-back Super Bowl titles.

Tommy Townsend, a first-team All-Pro in 2022, will be a free agent next month. The Chiefs are hard-pressed for salary cap space, and it appears they have decided they can save money by signing Araiza to replace their punter from the past four years.

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AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/nfl

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