No. 2 Sports Story of the Year: Kuntz's controversial dismissal from NDSCS football team got national attentionJamie Kuntz says he just wants to be a college football player. However, a decision he made on Sept. 1 not only derailed those plans, it made the 2012 Dickinson High School graduate the center of national debate and scrutiny that has forever changed his life.
By: Dustin Monke, The Dickinson Press
Editor’s Note: The Dickinson Press’ Top 10 sports stories of 2012 countdown concludes Sunday.
Jamie Kuntz says he just wants to be a college football player.
However, a decision he made on Sept. 1 not only derailed those plans, it made the 2012 Dickinson High School graduate the center of national debate and scrutiny that has forever changed his life.
Over a span of two weeks in September, Kuntz went from a no-name freshman linebacker at North Dakota State College of Science to the subject of a national news story after he was removed from the team for lying to his coaches about an incident at a game, which led to him coming out as a homosexual in the national media.
Kuntz’s saga is The Dickinson Press’ No. 2 sports story of the year.
Kuntz was removed from the NDSCS football team on Sept. 3 after he admitted to having his 65-year-old boyfriend in the press box of a stadium in Pueblo, Colo., where he was filming the Wildcats’ game against Snow College. It was a game Kuntz was not supposed to be at because he was injured, but one he had volunteered to attend as the team’s game film operator.
The school told the 18-year-old his conduct in the press box, which involved kissing his boyfriend, was detrimental to the program and a distraction to the team in both a letter and during a meeting with head coach Chuck Parsons on the day of his dismissal from the team.
Kuntz admitted that he had initially lied to Parsons about his conduct in the press box, which involved allowing his boyfriend in — a violation of team rules — and kissing him in some form. However, reports as to how far the kissing went vary between Kuntz and his former teammates who say they witnessed it.
“They said I was detrimental to the football program on game day,” Kuntz said in a Forum Communications article published Sept. 12. “It’s a blanket word they can throw on whatever they want to.”
Nonetheless, the school maintains it was justified in removing Kuntz from the team and that his sexuality had no part in their decision.
“In this case, I firmly believe coach Parsons analyzed the data thoroughly, the facts that he had and made the right decision,” NDSCS President John Richman said in the Sept. 12 article. “The disciplinary action is appropriate for the behavior that was there. And the behavior, I’ll be very clear, that the behavior has nothing to do with sexual orientation. I firmly believe that and stand behind that.”
The problem has been that no one seems to know the whole story, except Kuntz.
On an ESPN Outside the Lines feature about Kuntz that debuted Dec. 12 and is available to view online, two of his former NDSCS teammates — Shamir Akhdar and Davion Stackhouse — said they saw Kuntz doing more than just kissing his boyfriend. Stackhouse insinuated that Kuntz was engaged in sexual acts that went further than the kissing witnessed during the game.
ESPN also obtained the DVD of the NDSCS game Kuntz was taping, where he can be heard making a sexually explicit statement, presumably to his boyfriend.
Kuntz maintained he was a victim of a double standard because of his sexuality.
“If I would have come clean initially, I would have been kicked off either way,” Kuntz said in the Sept. 12 article. “I don’t see it any different. He (Parsons) said if it was a girl up there, it would have been the same punishment. No, I would have been congratulated for it.”
Many people took notice when the first take on Kuntz’s story, written by gay rights activist and journalist Dan Savage, was published on the website thestranger.com.
It wasn’t long before Kuntz’s phone was buzzing with reporters in constant search of an interview.
Large media organizations such as Yahoo!, Time, The Huffington Post, SB Nation, Sports on Earth and more wanted a piece of Kuntz, not to mention countless bloggers and gay rights activists, many of whom offered their opinion, and expressed their support for or disgust with Kuntz’s story.
Heck, even Saturday Night Live got in on the act when Weekend Update writer Seth Meyers joked about the incident in an episode.
Kuntz also received an outpouring of support on Twitter, where numerous people wished him well.
“I don’t even have words for it,” Kuntz said Wednesday during a phone interview. “It was so much at once, then just keep repeating my story over and over to multiple people. It got old after a while and I stopped doing interviews. For the first couple days, I couldn’t say no. It wasn’t a matter of me wanting attention or trying to get a story out, I didn’t know how to say no.”
Today Kuntz’s life has, for the most part, settled down. He is working a full-time job in Dickinson, works out regularly to stay in shape. This spring, he plans to take 18 credits online at Bismarck State College and do another six credits in the summer.
He is looking to attend a junior college in the fall so he can try and play football again. He said he is receiving help trying to accomplish that goal.
“It’s good just trying to figure everything out now,” Kuntz said Wednesday. “Now that my head is kind of cleared, I’m able to think of a plan on how I can get back into school. It’s nice to have it all died down now.”
Monke is the Sports Editor of The Dickinson Press. Reach him at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at monkebusiness.