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On September 10, 2012, Dan Savage reported on Jamie Kuntz, a North Dakota football player who was kicked off his team for having kissed his boyfriend in a press box during a game. The story soon went viral in the gay blogosphere. Now, in an arresting video from SB Nation's Amy K. Nelson, the eighteen-year-old speaks out.
As Savage reported in his Savage Love column, Kuntz has been playing football since he was eleven and aspires to a career in the sport.
He had offers from a bigger state school, but accepted a scholarship to play football for North Dakota State College of Science, a junior college in Wapheton, North Dakota that had promised him the opportunity to play the position he wanted. "My plan was to play at NDSCS for one or two years and then transfer to a bigger school," Kuntz told Savage.
However, those plans fell apart after Kuntz traveled to a football game against Snow College in Pueblo, Colorado, on Labor Day weekend. Kuntz had suffered a concussion and was not scheduled to play in the game, but at the last minute he was asked to film it.
His boyfriend, who lives in Denver, met Kuntz in Pueblo and sat with him in the otherwise deserted press box while Kuntz filmed the game.
"We were getting destroyed," Kuntz explains, "the game was a total blowout. And I guess I got bored and so I kissed my boyfriend and some of my teammates saw us."
Following the game, NDSCS's head football coach, Chuck Parsons, confronted Kuntz, who initially denied kissing the man with him in the press box. He also denied being gay.
After he returned to Wapheton, Kuntz sent his coach a text message saying that he was gay and that he had kissed the man who was with him in the press box. Kuntz also apologized to him for lying.
The next morning the coach kicked Kuntz off the team. Citing his right "to dismiss any team member for any conduct that is deemed detrimental to the team," NDSCS head coach Chuck Parsons wrote, "This decision was arrived at solely on the basis of your conduct during the football game . . . and because you [chose] not to be truthful when I confronted you about whom else was in the box with you."
As Savage observed, the coach seems to be anticipating charges of homophobia when he emphasizes that Kuntz is being kicked off the team "solely on the basis" of his conduct at the game and "lying about it."
However, as Cyd Zeigler of Outsports.com commented, "It's ludicrous to say Jamie's sexual orientation had nothing to do with his release from the team. Kissing someone during a game isn't a distraction unless it's a 'gay kiss.' And even if it were a distraction, a slap on the wrist is more than enough to get the point across. Kicking him off the team for such a minor offense comes from one place and one place only: homophobia."
According to Kuntz, other members of the team have been caught drinking, a violation of team rules; one member, a minor, was detained by the police after being found in a 21-and-over club. Some members of the team even have criminal records.
Kuntz believes that being kicked off the team was unfair. "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."
Savage believes that one factor that may have led to the coach's overreaction and that makes it unlikely that Kuntz will become a poster child for young gay athletes is the age of Kuntz's boyfriend, who is 65 years old.
Kuntz says that he has always been attracted to older men. Kuntz was 18 when he met his boyfriend online and Kuntz says that he was the aggressor. "I definitely pursued him," says Kuntz. "He's a great guy. I love him."
As Zeigler pointed out, "The age difference between Jamie and his boyfriend [probably] played a factor" in Kuntz being kicked off the team. "The country, and in particular football, is on edge about this issue after the horror that Jerry Sandusky perpetrated on Penn State. What people don't want to talk about is the fact that people, gay and straight, of huge age gaps do fall in love and do have relationships. That dynamic can be scary for a coach, but at the end of the day it's none of his business."
Having been thrown off the football team, Kuntz had little reason to stay at North Dakota State College of Science, so he returned to his hometown of Dickinson, North Dakota and the bosom of his family, who welcomed him and helped soothe his bruised feelings.
As Andy Towle reports on Towleroad, Amy K. Nelson met Kuntz in Dickinson for his first interview since being kicked off the team. She speaks with him about the incident and what his life has been like since he was outed. Nelson also talks to his mother and brother and sister, the school's athletic director Stu Engen, some of his teammates, and people from Wapheton, including a woman who reached out to Kuntz because she had a gay brother who committed suicide.