At least one college football coach thinks a player kissing his boyfriend is such an egregious offense that he should lose his spot on the team. That man is Chuck Parsons, head football coach at the North Dakota State College of Science. Last Monday he kicked freshman linebacker Jamie Kuntz off his team for kissing his boyfriend during a Sept. 1 game, as Dan Savage has reported in his latest column.
Parsons claims his action isn't based on homophobia. And my initial reaction when Savage contacted Outsports about this last week was to wait to learn the facts. Now I know the facts: In my not-so-humble opinion, Kuntz's removal from the team was ENTIRELY based on homophobia.
Parsons knew what he was doing, and he knew how to legally hide the homophobia that I believe drove him to this over-the-top reaction. In framing the removal of his newly out freshman, he crafted a letter of dismissal to Kuntz that tried to distance himself from the homophobic root of the reaction. The letter said, according to Savage:
"The head coach reserves the right to dismiss any team member for any conduct that is deemed detrimental to the team. This includes, but is not limited to, any criminal charges or convictions; violations of school policies, NDSCS athletic policies, or NDSCS Wildcat Football policies… Lying to Coaches, Teachers, or other school staff [constitute a violation].” The letter continues: “This decision was arrived at solely on the basis of your conduct during the football game… and because you choose not to be truthful with when I confronted you about whom else was in the box with you.”
Some of the facts of the case that you need to know, according to Outsports' Jim Buzinski, who spoke with Kuntz last week:
- Kuntz was not playing in the game because he has concussion symptoms. Instead, he was in press box helping with filming.
- In the press box, Kuntz proceeded to kiss his boyfriend on the mouth. His boyfriend happens to be 65 years old. People saw this and started talking.
- Parsons confronted Kuntz prior to a 15-hour bus ride back from Pueblo, Colo., to his school. Jamie lied and said the guy was grandfather.
- Upset, Jamie tweeted on the bus ride about general comments about suicide. His roommate saw the tweets and was worried about Jamie's safety. Jamie got back to campus and went out, so no one knew where he is. The police were called. They found him and determined no suicidal intent.
- On Monday, Sept. 3, Parsons told Kuntz he is off the team for conduct detrimental to the program (Jamie thinks they took language from student-athlete handbook).
Was coming out to his team via a kiss with his boyfriend a bad idea? Yeah. It wasn't much of a kiss apparently, just a quick smooch, but I'd still suggest about three dozen better ways to do it.
Was the fact that his boyfriend is 40-plus years older than him probably something he should have thought about before kissing him? Yeah. It sucks, but society simply looks at these relationships differently, and it is more shocking for people to see people of that age difference kiss.
Was there a better time to kiss your boyfriend than during a game? Yeah. But the team was getting destroyed, en route to a 63-17 drubbing by Snow College in Pueblo, Colo. Any distraction he could have created did not contribute to the team's dismal performance.
Should he have been kicked off the team for any of this? Absolutely not!! As Savage reports, other team members have done far worse and have not been removed from the team:
Other members of the team, according to Kuntz, 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 have “criminal charges and convictions,” according to Kuntz, both misdemeanors and felonies. Another player had a house party that was shut down by the police in Wapheton.
“Nothing happened to him,” says Kuntz. “He’s still on the team. He played on Saturday. 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.”
If coach Parsons truly didn't care about Kuntz's sexual orientation, Kuntz would still be on the team. One team member, who has a photograph of a woman in a bikini as the background of his twitter page, had this to say after the game:
Would he really have said that if Kuntz was kissing a girl? No. Zero percent chance. If Kuntz was kissing a girl, he would still be on the team. Period. For Parsons to suggest otherwise is an insult to the intelligence of the students, faculty and fans of NDSCS.
Unfortunately, the school is standing by their head coach. They won't even comment on the incident, according to Savage.
For context, this is the worst incident of homophobia in men's sports we at Outsports have heard in 15 years. When gay-positive messages are coming from so many corners of sports, it's sobering to see we haven't "won" yet. What's worse, gay people are not protected from homophobia in North Dakota. However, if someone were to make an ageism case, that might do the trick.
Kuntz has now been driven from the school. He withdrew from classes and is back home living with his mom. All because he kissed his boyfriend. Parsons, NDSCS and everyone involved should be ashamed of themselves.
Coach Parsons's email is firstname.lastname@example.org
Athletic director Stu Engen's email is email@example.com