Pretty much everyone , I think, has heard at least a murmuring about the college kid who was kicked off his North Dakota football team (see the Huffington Post’s article on Kuntz . Jamie Kuntz says it was because he’s gay (he was caught kissing his boyfriend) and his coach at North Dakota State College of Science says it’s because Jamie lied. Now, I’m inclined to believe that Jamie’s right. It’s usually not hard to tell when someone’s responding in a homophobic way. If you’re gay, this sense can work better than “gaydar” — it can be a mechanism for self-preservation. If it turns out Jamie is right, again, as I believe he likely is, his coach and the school have some serious explaining to do, as well as some serious work to do to make things right. And, I for one, hope it happens quickly, but in such a way that the coach and powers that be at the school learn something and make real change — for Jamie and all of his fellow students.
Now, suppose — hypothetically, as far as I can tell — that Jamie’s coach did boot him from the team for lying: How is that helpful and what sort of message does it send? To Jamie or any other kid who might be questioning his or her own sexuality. If Jamie, or any kid, is not telling you (or anyone) about his or her sexual orientation, it’s about distrust or uncertainty about how you’ll react and/or uncertainty about his or her own feelings. Coming out can be a risky proposition, so why risk it if you don’t think the response will be at least somewhat supportive or until you’re more certain of your own feelings? Add another layer of uncertainty if you’re an athlete in a traditionally macho sport. Punishing Jamie, or any other teen, for lying, as if he or she had done so to hide doing something wrong, is just asinine. It’s petty and punitive. And, in Jamie Kuntz’s case, it smacks of homophobia.
I had posted earlier about how important I thought it was that NFL players Brendon Ayanbadejo and Chris Kluwe had spoken up in favor of gay marriage, and in favor of free speech. Their visibility and voice, especially considering the weight they carry in certain (often less accepting) circles, is important. I didn’t, however, expect to have an example so soon of why their voices are so necessary or who might learn from their examples and/or benefit from hearing the truth from them. But, I hope Kuntz is bolstered by their words and, perhaps more importantly, his coach and North Dakota State College learn from Ayanbadejo and Kluwe’s message and do the right thing.
And, as an aside, to all those people who felt the need to publish information on, and/or who had to criticize, Kuntz’s boyfriend: Unless it’s relevant to the case (and it appears not to be right now), let it be and get back to the real issue of the coach and school’s behavior.