Auston Matthews issued a public apology on Friday to the woman he encountered in a late-night incident in Arizona on May 26 that led to misdemeanour charges being laid against him.
The disorderly conduct and disruptive-behaviour charges were dismissed on Wednesday after he reached a settlement with the victim, a security officer at the condominium complex in Scottsdale where he lives.
“I want to reiterate again how sorry I am for my actions, my behaviour,” Matthews said a few hours before the Toronto Maple Leafs were to play the Boston Bruins at Scotiabank Arena. "I never meant to cause any distress to this woman. I can assure you I’ve learned from my mistakes.
“The big lesson I have learned is how your actions can affect other people. [I] will strive every day to be better in every aspect of my life."
According to a complaint filed with police, Matthews was in a group of young men who attempted to force open the door to the security guard’s vehicle as she sat in it doing paperwork at 2 a.m. After she leaped out of the car and confronted him, the security officer said Matthews walked away, dropped his trousers, bent over and mooned her, but kept his underwear on.
Another member of the group attempted to intervene on Matthews’s behalf and requested that the incident not be reported to the condominium’s management. The woman responded by saying it was on video – and would be reported.
A surveillance camera allegedly showed Matthews walking toward an elevator in the building with his pants around his ankles.
When news broke a week before the season started, it caused embarrassment for both the 22-year-old player and the team. Kyle Dubas, Toronto’s general manager, said Matthews had never alerted the organization about the incident and expressed disappointment.
On Friday, Maple Leafs president and alternate governor Brendan Shanahan said Matthews has learned a valuable lesson.
“The Toronto Maple Leafs are committed to developing and promoting the qualities of good character, respect and equality in our organization, including our players, and we recognize and embrace the role we serve in the community,” Shanahan said in a statement. “While Auston has been an exceptional ambassador for [us] in representing those values, his conduct in this incident last May failed to meet expectations.”
Matthews was not arrested when the incident occurred. Charges were filed later. Arizona law allows a person accused of a misdemeanour to settle the matter directly with the victim and avoid going to court.
The first player chosen in the 2016 NHL draft, Matthews leads the team with 13 goals in its first 20 games. In January, the former rookie of the year signed a five-year contract extension worth US$58-million.
In September, Matthews apologized if the situation distracted the team as it prepared for its first game. He did not mention the victim directly that day. He did this time, expressing his regret.
“Any time something goes wrong you want to own it and move on,” said Mike Babcock, the Toronto coach. “Anybody who is a pro athlete and in the public eye has [that] responsibility. It’s not easy, but has to done.”