A North Dakota State College of Science football player cut ties with the school last week after he was dismissed from the team following a chain of events that began with kissing his boyfriend in a press box during the team’s game Sept. 1 in Pueblo, Colo. NDSCS cited a violation of team rules for the dismissal.
Jamie Kuntz, 18, Dickinson, N.D., was sitting out the Wildcats’ 63-17 loss to Snow College when he was observed by a person or persons kissing his 65-year old boyfriend during the second half. Kuntz was in the press box filming the game for NDSCS and was recovering from a concussion suffered during practice.
“Nobody was around… They just saw us in the press box,” Kuntz said. “Why they were looking in the press box, I don’t know, but that’s what happened.”
Kuntz’s boyfriend, who has no affiliation with NDSCS, had traveled to the game from his Colorado residence.
After the game, the Wildcats boarded their bus for a long 16-hour drive back to Wahpeton. Kuntz said at first, he was unaware that he had been seen in the press box, but figured it out when teammates were laughing at him.
“We stopped somewhere, and people were laughing at me,” Kuntz said. “I wasn’t sure what they were laughing about (at the time), but they were laughing at me.”
During a rest stop, NDSCS head football coach Chuck Parsons questioned Kuntz about the incident. A closeted gay man at the time, Kuntz said he initially lied about what happened.
“I wasn’t ‘out’ yet, so that’s partially the reason why I lied,” Kuntz said. “I wasn’t going to tell him. I just played stupid the whole time. He asked me who was in the press box with you, and I said my grandpa. … He said, ‘This is going to be a problem when we get back.’”
As the bus ride continued, Kuntz began sending messages on Twitter that implied that he was suicidal.
“I got betrayed by my family tonight ... Have you ever thought about who would show up and cry because they actually cared, at your own funeral? Do you fear death, or embrace it?” Kuntz wrote over the course of three tweets dated between 12:19-5:10 a.m. on Sept. 2.
A visit from campus police after returning from Colorado found Kuntz to not be a threat to himself.
“I can confirm we were there,” said NDSCS campus police sergeant Steve Helgeson. “It was a welfare check … I met with (Kuntz) and spoke with him and then I left.”
Kuntz eventually texted Parsons and admitted the truth about the press box and that he was gay.At a meeting on Monday, Kuntz said Parsons handed him a letter and told him he was off the team.
“He said, ‘I don’t care about the details, and what you did or didn’t do.’ He decided the distraction was too big, and you’re kicked off the football team,” Kuntz said. “... It was devastating, because the only reason I went to Wahpeton is because of football.”
Parsons declined to comment on the story.
“It’s a delicate situation, and I can’t say anything further,” Parsons said when approached after Tuesday’s football practice.
NDSCS President Dr. John Richman said that the decision was not about sexual orientation, but a violation of team rules.
“In no time in looking at or reviewing information and facts, did the decision process, nor the disciplinary process was there ever, and I mean ever, any consideration or thought given to sexual orientation that several media sources have attempted to play out in this incident,” Dr. Richman said.
Dismissal Policy in the NDSCS Player’s Manual says the head coach “reserves the right to dismiss any team member for any conduct that is deemed detrimental to the team.”
“The statement clarifies our position within the regulations that we operate. I’m confident the information, facts and thought process coach Parsons put into this and reviewed to come to the decision to dismiss this individual was a very thorough and thought-through process,” Richman said. “I think it was the right decision and I think the disciplinary action chosen was appropriate for this demonstrated behavior.”
Richman said that he has not been in direct communication with Parsons since the incident occurred Sept. 1.
“Directly, no. My communication is through the athletic director, Stu Engen,” Richman said.
Engen additionally declined comment for this story.
There are 11 guidelines listed in the Player’s Manual for dismissal, and Richman cited two points that pertained to Kuntz, he said, — lying to coaches, and insubordination. Richman clarified the insubordination as “the manner in which this individual chose to respond in the discussions with coach Parsons,” Richman said.
The other reasons listed in NDSCS’ dismissal policy, criminal violations, school policy violations, athletic department violations, football policy violations, fighting, absence or tardiness to either class or “study table,” loss of eligibility and unexcused absence, can all be classified as “detrimental to the team.”
“That’s just a blanket word they can throw on anything they want to… I can’t really say anything, they’re going by a team rule,” Kuntz said. “Well, that’s bull***t. There’s been multiple rules broken in the four weeks I was there.”
Kuntz said certain players were cited for alcohol possession but did not name specifics. Helgeson said he was “not … aware of” any football players who had received citations or arrests this school year in Wahpeton.
Overall, Kuntz believes he was persecuted for his sexual orientation. He is now looking toward the future, and would like to continue playing football. At Dickinson High School, he was a stand-out linebacker.
“Yeah, definitely. If I had a girl up there, I’d still be on that team,” he said. “I just have to find a new school, hopefully, and then I can play football.”