Buffalo Bills fans are criticizing the team for choosing Matt Araiza over Matt Haack when the organization was aware of the rape accusations against Araiza.
Once again, the NFL has proven that being good at football trumps recognizing the trauma of women.
NFL fans have been subjected to the years-long Deshaun Watson case, which has finally been resolved in terms of Watson’s career (although clearly, not for everyone affected). The case has sent a troubling message to women who enjoy the game and work in the NFL landscape: being talented at football means the league will not permanently bar a player for harming women. This was reiterated recently when the judge in Watson’s case confirmed that there was evidence of “predatory” harassment and harm perpetrated by Watson, yet he initially received a six-game suspension.
In the case of Matt Araiza, the details of his involvement of the brutal gang-rape of a 17-year-old college student publicly broke on Aug. 25. But according to The Athletic’s Tim Graham, the Bills were well-aware of Araiza’s actions when they cut Matt Haack in favor of Araiza.
The Athletic’s Lyndsey D’Arcangelo points out the blatant hypocrisy of an organization — which is one of a mere few to have a woman as an owner — continued to advance the “Punt God” narrative of someone accused of rape.
The Bills are just the latest NFL team to make women in the sport feel unwelcome, as Washington Commanders brass sexually harassed their cheerleaders, the Houston Texans provided Watson NDAs for his massage appointments, and several NFL organizations have continued to employ players accused of and even proven to have committed domestic violence, sexual harassment and sexual assault.
Bills, NFL illustrate hypocrisy once again when it comes to violence against women
Once again, the NFL reiterates that it is more concerned with damage control rather than promptly removing players who are facing allegations of abusive behavior. For example, New York Giants owner John Mara admitted that he re-signed former kicker Josh Brown after Brown had admitted to abusing his wife. Brown re-signed on April 18, 2016, but he wasn’t cut until the abuse allegations became public and there was widespread backlash. On October 25, 2016, the Giants released Brown and apologized for their “misguided” approach to the situation.
That may be one team, but the NFL did the same when TMZ leaked video of Ray Rice abusing his wife in 2014. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell stated that he and no one at the NFL had seen the second video. Ray’s wife, Janay Rice, came out and said Goodell was lying.
At the time, Goodell admitted that the league had a “problem” when it came to violence against women, but the real problem is how the league and its teams handle news of that abuse. There is a consistent pattern of failing to act on abuse allegations — even when there is clear evidence — until the knowledge becomes public.
And even when the knowledge is public, as it has been with Deshaun Watson, there were still a handful of NFL teams jostling to make him their quarterback of the future. The Cleveland Browns rewarded him with a $230 million fully-guaranteed contract, firmly believing Watson would receive a slap on the wrist and move on. There was no consideration that perhaps Watson would be banned from the NFL.
Rodger Sherman, the Ringer journalist who gave Araiza his “Punt God” nickname, publicly denounced him and believes he should be banned from the NFL immediately.
If those who once celebrated Araiza for his talents, including journalists and Bills fans who were hyped about the draft pick, are done with him, there is no reason the NFL should continue to employ men who abuse women.