Sep 11, 2012, 3:31 PM EDT
The head coach of the North Dakota State College of Science football team says that he dismissed linebacker Jamie Kuntz from the squad not because he kissed his boyfriend in the press box, but because he lied about it. But get real, say many observers and gay rights proponents: obviously, they say, the 19-year-old was kicked off the team because they found out he was gay.
It all happened in Pueblo, Colo., over the Labor Day weekend, when NDSCS, a small junior college in Wapheton, North Dakota, traveled to Snow College for a nonleague game. Kuntz, who says that he has ambitions to one day play in the NFL, was not suited up for the game due to a concussion — but was filming it from the press box. Kuntz’s boyfriend was also in the press box, and at one point the two shared a kiss … which was seen by at least one of his teammates on the field.
When confronted by coach Chuck Parsons, Kuntz initially lied about the kiss, and said that he was not gay. But after returning to campus, Kuntz emailed the coach and admitted that he was gay, and that he was sorry he lied.
The next morning Kuntz’s coach called him for a meeting.
“He said he didn’t care what people did in their personal lives,” recalls Kuntz, “but it was a big mistake to do that on a football trip. I said, yeah, I made a big mistake and I apologized again for lying. Then he handed me a letter and said he was kicking me off the team because what I did was ‘detrimental’ to the team and I was a ‘distraction.’”
NDSCS bylaws allow the coaching staff wide latitude in disciplining players, who can be removed from the team for a variety of indescretions — among them “Lying to Coaches, Teachers, or other school staff.” But Kuntz points out that other members of the team have been caught drinking, and others have “criminal charges and convictions,” both misdemeanors and felonies. Another player had a house party that was shut down by Wapheton police.
“Nothing happened to him,” says Kuntz. “He’s still on the team. He played on Saturday. I don’t feel that I should’ve been kicked off the team for this. It was a kiss. It was a mistake, but it was just a kiss. We weren’t making out.”
Kuntz withdrew from school two days after being kicked off the team. His mother found out he was gay a short time later, when he changed his Twitter profile from “athlete” to “gay athlete.”
Also: Kuntz’ boyfriend happens to be 65 years old. If that matters.
The college isn’t commenting on the story, and is sticking by their coach’s decision. But that is not sitting well with many. Outsports.com:
For context, this is the worst incident of homophobia in men’s sports we at Outsports have heard in 15 years. When gay-positive messages are coming from so many corners of sports, it’s sobering to see we haven’t “won” yet. What’s worse, gay people are not protected from homophobia in North Dakota. However, if someone were to make an ageism case, that might do the trick.
Would Kuntz have been kicked off the team for kissing a girl? Doubtful. What if the kiss had been with a 65-year-old woman? This is all getting confusing.
And it of course occurs in the wake of the controversy surrounding Ravens’ linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo. The Ravens player was recently criticized by a Maryland politician for participating in a pro-gay marriage fundraiser, with Vikings’ punter Chris Kluwe them offering his support of Ayanbadejo in a series of provocative tweets.
Kuntz says he hopes to transfer to the University of Minnesota or the University of Colorado and play football next season.
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