TORONTO – With his legal issue now settled, Maple Leafs’ forward Auston Matthews is vowing to learn from his mistakes.
A charge of disorderly conduct and disruptive behaviour levied against Matthews last May by a female security guard was dismissed on Wednesday in Matthews’ hometown of Scottsdale, Ariz.
“I just want to reiterate again just how truly sorry I am for my actions and my behaviour,” Matthews told the media on Friday. “I never meant to cause any distress to this woman and I can assure you that I’ve learned from my mistakes and my actions and it’s something for me to just strive [from] every day to be better in every aspect of my life.”
A spokesperson for the City of Scottsdale said on Wednesday that Matthews and the woman reached a settlement.
News of the allegation against Matthews originally surfaced in September, stemming from an alleged incident that took place at Matthews’ condo in the spring.
Fayola Dozithee claimed she was sitting in a locked car on the condo’s property when a group of people, including Matthews, allegedly tried to get inside her vehicle in the early morning hours of May 26.
In a police report, the woman said she confronted the men – whom she believed to be intoxicated – and that Matthews dropped his pants and grabbed his buttocks in the middle of their interaction. The guard said Matthews kept his underwear on.
Matthews hasn’t commented directly on the allegations, but acknowledged the case mostly in broad terms on Friday.
“I think [I learned] just how your actions can obviously affect other people,” he said. “I made a mistake and it’s been a lesson learned. I'll try to put my best foot forward and just strive to be better in all aspects of my life.”
What transpired in Scottsdale isn’t the only blunder Matthews has dealt with in relation to the case. He also accepted responsibility for failing to tell the Leafs about his legal troubles before they became public, with general manager Kyle Dubas saying on Sept. 26 he found out about the situation via Twitter.
At that time, Matthews called not disclosing his problem to the organization “an error in judgment on my part.”
Head coach Mike Babcock said Friday that he is glad to see the matter settled on all fronts.
“Any time something goes wrong in your life, you want to own it and get on with it as quick as you can,” Babcock said. “And sometimes when you don't like the way you handled something or the way it went. That's the hardest part for you [to deal with]. I think he's done a real good job of owning the situation and moving on. Anybody who's an athlete, who's in the public eye, has a responsibility to the public. That doesn't make it easy, and we all make mistakes, but you own it and you move on.”
Leafs' President Brendan Shanahan also released a statement through the team's PR staff on Friday about the case being wrapped up and how Matthews has handled the proceedings.
“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. "While Auston has been an exceptional ambassador for the Leafs in representing those values, his conduct in this incident last May failed to meet expectations. We appreciate that Auston has publicly reiterated today that he is truly sorry for his conduct and has recognized the impact his actions caused. We have no doubt that he has learned a valuable lesson and will grow from this experience.”
Part of that whole process for Matthews was putting aside noise surrounding his case to keep being a top producer for the Leafs. Through 20 games, Matthews leads Toronto with 26 points (13 goals, 13 assists), while leading all forwards in ice time per game (19:55).
Now that the legal matter is resolved, Matthews’ full attention can be on helping himself – and the Leafs – continue pushing ahead.
“[The case] is something that I had to deal with on a personal level,” Matthews said, “but at the same time, I have a job to do and I have to block that out while I'm doing it and focus on that. Obviously it’s not a situation I'd like to be in, but it's been a big lesson learned for myself.”