(SAN DIEGO) — San Diego State University officials made their first public statements addressing a civil lawsuit filed against former punter Matt Araiza and two other football players of allegedly gang-raping a 17-year-old girl.
“To be absolutely clear, we take allegations of sexual assault very seriously and do not support any actions or behaviors that cause harm to others,” Athletic Director John Wicker said Monday at a press conference.
The university officials pushed back against criticism of how the school handed the sexual assault allegations, with Wicker telling reporters, “It is absolutely not true that we swept this under the rug,” at the press conference.
Wicker defended the university’s handling of the accusations, saying because the alleged assault was said to have happened at an off-campus party, “the San Diego Police Department had the jurisdiction over this matter” and the university allowed SDPD’s request to investigate the sexual assault allegations.
“We are committed to hold accountable students who violate the universities policies,” said Head Coach Brady Hoke at the press conference.
Wicker alleged SDPD asked the university not to investigate the allegations because they felt it would “impede or negatively impact their investigation.”
The Buffalo Bills released rookie Araiza on Saturday after he was named in the lawsuit along with two of his San Diego State University teammates. The 22-year-old NFL rookie has denied the accusations.
“This afternoon, we decided that releasing Matt Araiza was the best thing to do. Our culture in Buffalo is more important than winning football games,” Buffalo Bills General Manager Brandon Beane said in a statement posted to the team’s Twitter account on Saturday.
Beane added that the team had spoken to the accuser’s lawyer and that “we tried to be thorough, and thoughtful and not rush to judgment.”
“With the serious nature of allegations and we just can’t, we don’t have the means to put all the facts together. And there’s multiple versions of what happened and you know, he’s a football coach. I’m a GM like we don’t have access to everything. And so that’s more important than playing football. And so we want Matt to focus on that,” he said.
Beane also said the team’s investigation into the allegations is ongoing.
In a statement to ABC News, Araiza’s parents alleged a “war” was waged on their son and alleged he has been “extorted, discriminated against, harassed and the subject of multiple and continuous threats of violence and death.”
“He has been released from his job and our entire family continues to receive horrific threats of violence and death. We have all been canceled. Every member of our family. Salacious rumors grew as fact. There are multiple witness reports to deny the claims that are made against him. The legal system is designed to find the facts and make decisions. They should be allowed to do that,” Araiza’s parents said in a statement.
An attorney for Araiza told ABC News in a statement that he does not understand why the university is receiving backlash as they were just following the SDPD’s directive.
“As far as SDSU, I feel sorry that the school has been raked over the coals since this story broke. It is my understanding that the San Diego Police Department told them to back off and let them (SDPD) do the investigation, and then SDSU complied with that directive,” Kerry Armstrong, an attorney for Araiza, said in the statement.
Armstrong denied the accusations of rape against his client and alleged he has several witnesses who talked to his investigator and will “back up much of Araiza’s story.” Armstrong also said he does not know what happened in the bedroom, but alleged that Araiza was not present.
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