(WAHPETON, N.D.) — A gay North Dakota freshman linebacker believes he was kicked off his university football team for kissing his much-older boyfriend at a game.
Before the incident, Jamie Kuntz, 18, was playing football for North Dakota State College of Sciences in Wahpeton on a partial scholarship.
He was recovering from a concussion over Labor Day weekend so his coach sent him to the press box to videotape the game against Snow College in Pueblo, Colo.
Kuntz’s boyfriend, who lives in Colorado, came to the game and was sitting in the press box with him. At halftime, Kuntz’s team was losing 49-3 and he went down to the locker room to hear the coach’s halftime talk.
He returned to the press box after the talk and said he shared a kiss with his boyfriend in between plays.
“It wasn’t a peck, but it wasn’t a hardcore makeout session,” Kuntz told ABC News. “It was in between.”
When he boarded the bus to return to North Dakota, his coach pulled him off the bus. The coach told him that people had told him that Kuntz was a “distraction” the whole game.
“He asked me what happened in the press box and I played dumb. I said, ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about,'” Kuntz said.
When pressed, he lied and told his coach that it was his grandfather that was in the press box with him. Kuntz’s boyfriend is 65 years old. The conversation ended and Kuntz boarded the bus. On the way home, he said he felt like other players were laughing at him, but he did not know why.
Kuntz said a few close friends knew about his sexuality, but he had not come out to his team or his family.
When asked why he lied to the coach, Kuntz said, “I wasn’t out at all and that’s a lot to unload on somebody on a question like that. I was kind of scared I would get kicked off if I told him the right answer.”
But when the team got back to North Dakota, Kuntz felt guilty about lying and came clean to the coach about who the man in the press box was.
On Monday, he was dismissed from the football team after a meeting with his coach.
“I was shocked. I didn’t think I was going to get kicked off the team,” Kuntz said. “There could have been extra conditioning. There’s always something that could have been done [instead].”
Soon after, he withdrew from the school.
“I chose to leave,” he said. “The only reason I went there was for football.”
Kuntz strongly believes that he was kicked off of the team because of his sexuality. He believes that had he been kissing a woman in the press box, even an older woman, the outcome would have been different. He said he probably would have been “congratulated for it” by his teammates, if it had been a woman.
The school vehemently denies that Kuntz was dismissed from the team for the kiss.
“It had nothing to do with his sexual orientation. Nothing,” university spokeswoman Barbara Spaeth-Baum told ABC News. “He wasn’t doing a task that he was assigned to do. On top of that, he lied about what he was doing or not doing, meaning not fulfilling his task.”
Spaeth-Baum said that Kuntz was told that he could keep his scholarship even if he was not on the team, but that he chose to leave.
“Our staff is trained and they certainly know what those reasons are and are fair to everyone involved,” she said.
The university said in a statement that Kuntz was “dismissed from the team for a violation of the football team rules.”
The school’s 2012 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 list of “possible dismissible behavior” includes “lying to Coaches, Teachers or other school staff,” in addition to criminal violations, fighting and repeated absence or tardiness.
Just one month into his college football career, Kuntz found himself having to drop three bombshells on his family–he was kicked off the team, he left the school and he was gay.
“I think they were more upset about me getting kicked off the team than anything else,” he said.
When he told his family about his 65-year-old boyfriend, he said, “My mom was the only one that was rough with that.”
But Kuntz said that she is supportive of him and has now accepted his boyfriend. He recognizes that people may find the 47-year age difference between him and his boyfriend “sketchy,” but he said the year-long relationship is genuine.
“I know it’s weird to tell people,” he said. “I don’t know if I was looking for a father figure right away or a mentor, but it’s passed that now.”
The two met through an online dating site, Kuntz said, and have spent time together several times over the past year. Kuntz did not want to disclose his boyfriend’s identity to protect his privacy. He said his boyfriend “felt awful” about the fallout from the kiss.
Kuntz’s main concern now is getting back to football. His plan was to play at North Dakota State College for a few years before transitioning to a Division 1 school. He currently has no plans to sue the school.
“I’m not worried about a lawsuit, I’m worried about getting back to a deal in college and playing football,” he said. “I would rather still be playing, getting ready for this game on Saturday.”
But he hopes that his newfound notoriety will be helpful to others.
“My story is out there so hopefully this doesn’t happen to someone else,” Kuntz said. “I may be a voice for somebody who doesn’t want to come out.”
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Paul R. La Monica, CNN
Jackie Wattles, CNN
Sonia Moghe and Wayne Drash, CNN
Tal Kopan, CNN