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NDSCS football player: I was kicked off team for being gay

Jamie Kuntz, left, then a Dickinson High senior linebacker, is shown in a 2011 game against Dawson County at the Badlands Activities Center. Forum Communications

WAHPETON, N.D. - A North Dakota State College of Science football player says he was kicked off the team for being gay, while school officials say he was removed for lying to his coaches.

Jamie Kuntz's removal stems from him being seen kissing a 65-year-old male companion in a press box while filming the Wildcats' road game against Snow College in Pueblo, Colo., on Sept. 1.

Kuntz, 18, of Dickinson, was not in uniform after suffering an injury prior to the game, but when the linebacker - who is now openly gay - was seen by teammates kissing another male in the press box, it prompted NDSCS head coach Chuck Parsons to inquire about the kiss.

Two days later, Kuntz found himself kicked off the team, a decision made following a 10-minute meeting with Parsons and reached on the grounds that Kuntz had violated the team's player conduct policy. He has since withdrawn from the school.

"They said it was for lying," said Kuntz, who at this time does not plan to seek legal action against the school. "He said that I was a distraction and I was a detriment to the team. He needed to make an example out of somebody so people on the team would know not to break team rules."

Kuntz's story received national attention Tuesday. Numerous national media outlets reported the story, and two National Football League players - Chris Kluwe of the Minnesota Vikings and Brendon Ayanbadejo of the Baltimore Ravens - voiced their support of Kuntz on Twitter.

The letter Kuntz received detailing the reason for his dismissal states that: "The head coach reserves the right to dismiss any member for any conduct that is deemed detrimental to the team."

Being gay is not listed as grounds for dismissal from the football team in the NDSCS player's manual.

NDSCS President John Richman said he supports Parsons' decision and believes the matter was handled in the same way as any other student-athlete or student discipline case at the school.

"This young man was not removed from the football team because of his sexual orientation," Richman said. "That is not the case. He was dismissed for not fulfilling, not doing the duties he was assigned to do. He lied about it, and he was insubordinate to the coach.

"A student athlete was asked to perform a duty, chose to accept that and did not do that, and when you look to the policy under the possible disciplinary behavior, you can zero in on two: lying to coaches and insubordination."

The male companion with Kuntz in the press box was his boyfriend. Prior to the events of Sept. 1, only a few close friends knew he was gay, he said.

After the game, Parsons pulled Kuntz off the team bus and confronted him. At that point, Kuntz denied kissing anyone and denied being gay.

"He asked what was going in the press box, and I just played dumb," Kuntz said. "I said, 'I don't know what you are talking about; I was just filmed the game.' He asked, 'Who was in the press box with you?' I said 'My grandpa,' and he said, 'OK.' I asked, 'Is that going to be a problem?' He said, 'Not now, but it is when we get back.' That was the conversation we had."

The Forum attempted to reach Parsons, but the calls weren't returned.

Following the postgame confrontation, Kuntz posted several Twitter messages that had suicidal themes.

A concerned roommate called police, but after it was determined that Kuntz was not suicidal, he then sent a text message to Parsons admitting that he did kiss his boyfriend and that he indeed was gay. Kuntz told The Associated Press that the kiss with his 65-year-old boyfriend "just happened."

"If I would have come clean initially I would have been kicked off either way," Kuntz said. "I don't see it any different. He said if it was a girl up there, it would have been the same punishment. No, I would have been congratulated for it.

"Coach Parsons didn't even see me. That is why he asked me what was happening. He heard from other players what was happening, and if the players had seen a girl up there, do you think they would have cared? They were losing by 50 points."

Kuntz did admit to lying, which was the grounds the coach cited for his dismissal, but said the school's wording in its football player conduct policy allows them blanket enforcement.

"Yeah, it was a lie, but come on, football players lie all the time," Kuntz said "When coaches call people during the summer and ask, 'Are you working out?' everyone will say, 'yes,' but obviously once we got to fall camp with the conditioning, you could tell people were not running this summer. So that is a violation of team policy, so they all should be kicked off the team, right?"

Kuntz said he hopes to continue his football career elsewhere and still has ambitions of playing at the NCAA Division I level. He had a walk-on offer at North Dakota State to be a fullback but opted to play at NDSCS where he could play linebacker - the position he excelled at while playing for Dickinson High School.

He said he wished the whole situation at NDSCS could have been handled differently and doesn't feel slighted by his teammates pointing out what had happened in the press box.

"I don't feel betrayed," Kuntz said. "I feel let down that they didn't come to me and ask what was going on. It happened."