North Dakota State College of Science / credit: SB Nation
The real issue in the dismissal of Jamie Kuntz from his college football team is whether the punishment fits the crime.
In kicking the 18-year-old off the team, North Dakota State College of Science head coach Chuck Parsons said it was for conduct detrimental to the team. Specifically, in a letter to Kuntz released by the school, Parsons said, "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."
Kuntz was kicked off for lying to a coach; gee, that's never happened. And what did he lie about? The relationship he had with a 65-year-old man he kissed in the press box. Kuntz told Parsons after the game in Colorado that the man was his grandfather. He then admitted he was dating the man. On Labor Day, two days after the game, he was dismissed.
Kuntz was not out as a gay man to anyone prior to this, so telling a lie to his coach -- while not acceptable -- was totally understandable. He panicked at being discovered and tried to cover it up. I did the same thing at 18 when my parents asked about my then-boyfriend. Kuntz lives in a state not exactly gay-friendly and had heard gay slurs tossed around by his teammates daily since he joined the team. He had no idea what kind of reception he would receive, so figured a lie might save him from a worse fate.
The school also said that Kuntz "plainly failed to perform his duties as assigned and was an ongoing distraction to the game." Kuntz has been consistent in stating that he did not kiss his boyfriend until the middle of the third period of a blowout (NDSC lost, 63-17). He told me that the only time he stopped filming was when the camera died, and that later he was told his film wasn't the kind of quality the team expected; not a surprise, since he was a player sitting out a game with concussion-like symptoms, not a videographer.
Some have wondered why Kuntz and his boyfriend could not wait until after the game to kiss. It's simple -- Kuntz had to get on the team bus for a 15-hour ride back to campus. The two had not seen each other since June and they had no chance to be together before or after the game. The kissing may have been reckless, but again it's understandable.
Kuntz flat-out rejects charges by at least one player who confronted him that he was engaged in more than kissing. "Does [the player] have X-ray vision to be able to look up into the press box and see through concrete," Kuntz told me sarcastically.
So, we have a frightened 18-year-old closeted gay kid in his first game on his new team panicking and lying. For that he gets the boot? Kuntz said he would have accepted a suspension and even asked Parsons about it, but was told the coach's decision was final.
The school insists that Kuntz was not kicked off for being gay, but I don't believe that. A more empathetic coach would have seen the extenuating circumstances and given a punishment that fit the crime, not the death penalty for speeding.
Jim Buzinski is co-founder of Outsports.com