Entries in Football Player (4)


College Football Player Says He Was Axed from Team for Gay Kiss

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(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


University of Montana Quarterback Charged with Rape

Photodisc/Thinkstock(MISSOULA, Mont.) -- University of Montana quarterback Jordan Johnson was charged with rape Tuesday afternoon and suspended from the football team.

According to court documents filed by Assistant Chief Deputy County Attorney Suzy Boylan, Johnson, 20, and an acquaintance were watching a movie together in her room on Feb. 4 when Johnson began kissing her. The victim resisted his advances, repeatedly saying, “no,” but Johnson would not stop and reportedly said, “I will make you.” He then allegedly proceeded to rape her.

Afterward, the documents stated, the woman sent a text message to her roommate that said, “Omg…I think I might have just gotten raped.”

Johnson maintains the sex was consensual, and, “looks forward to the opportunity to prove his innocence at trial, clear his name and return to pursuing his education,” his attorney David Paioli said in a statement.

The charges come amid federal investigations into the Missoula Police Department and University of Montana’s handling of sexual assault cases.

The investigations have been looking into 80 reports of rape occurring in Missoula in the past three years.

The U.S. Department of Education is focusing their investigation on reports of harassment and assault allegations on campus, while the U.S. Department of Justice investigates how the Missoula Police Department and County Attorney’s Office handle reports of sexual assault, believing they failed to investigate some allegations.

While police and university officials have been eager to cooperate with the investigations, Missoula County Attorney Fred Van Valkenberg strongly opposed the investigations when they were launched in May, denying any mishandling of sexual assault reports.

Johnson is the second member of the university’s football team facing a rape charge. In January, running back Beau Donaldson was charged with raping an acquaintance in September 2010 and is currently awaiting trial. He also maintains his innocence.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Football Star Exonerated of Rape Conviction, Won't Sue Accuser

Comstock/Thinkstock(LOS ANGELES) -- A rising California football star who was convicted of raping a high school classmate and spent six years behind bars before being exonerated will not press charges against the woman who falsely accused him, his lawyer reportedly says.

A lawyer for Brian Banks told the Los Angeles Times Saturday that the 26-year-old would not pursue any action against Wanetta Gibson, a high school classmate who accused him of rape.

"We do not plan on taking any legal action against Gibson," Justin Brooks of the California Innocence Project told the Times. "We do plan on filing a state claim for the $100 a day Brian is entitled to under State Law 4900 for every day he was wrongfully incarcerated."

Banks had a full football scholarship to the University of Southern California back in 2002, when Gibson accused him of kidnapping and raping her following what was actually a "consensual sexual encounter," according to new court documents detailing the Gibson's recantation. The two had been "making out pretty heavily" but did not have intercourse, Banks' lawyers wrote.

Gibson did not recant before because she feared losing the $1.5 million she and her family won from a civil suit against Long Beach Unified School District following the incident.

Banks was out of jail and on parole as a registered as a sex offender, when Gibson friend-requested him on Facebook in February 2011. He didn't accept, but asked her to meet with him and a private investigator. They recorded the recantation, and the California Innocence Project, a law program that aims to exonerate wrongfully convicted inmates, took on the case.

"I'm just thankful to be free now and have the opportunity like anybody else to thrive in life," Banks told ABC News Radio on Thursday.

The former star athlete also hopes to don his football cleats once more.

"I've been training since October of last year in hopes of giving football another shot," Banks said. "I'm hoping to possibly receive a try out from a team."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Former Rising Football Star Exonerated in Rape Case

Hemera/Thinkstock(LOS ANGELES) -- A rising football star in southern California whose career was brought to a sudden halt by a kidnap-rape conviction that landed him in prison was exonerated Thursday after his accuser contacted him on Facebook and recanted her story.

"I'm just thankful to be free now and have the opportunity like anybody else to thrive in life," Brian Banks told ABC News Radio Thursday. "I'm completely overwhelmed with so many emotions and feelings all at once."

In a hearing Thursday, Banks shook from sobbing when prosecutors said they did not object to his conviction being reversed. His mother and girlfriend, who were in court, shrieked with happiness.

Banks, now 26, was 17 in 2002 and "by all accounts, a rising football star," according to court documents. Many believed the 6-foot-4, 225-pound athlete was bound for the NFL. The University of Southern California, a Division I school, had offered him a full-ride scholarship and a slew of other schools -- including Michigan State University and University of Kansas -- were pursuing the middle linebacker.

"Tragically, Banks would never realize his dream of going to college and playing college football," his attorneys wrote in court documents. "A high-school acquaintance -- Wanetta Gibson -- shattered that dream one fateful day after she accused Banks of rape and kidnapping following a consensual sexual encounter."

When Gibson accused Banks of rape following an encounter at Long Beach Polytechnic High School, his attorneys encouraged him to plead no contest instead of going to trial before a jury and risking 41 years in prison.

His attorneys said he "chose the lesser of two evils" when he pleaded no contest. Banks was sentenced to six years, which he served and is now on parole and registered as a sex offender.

On Feb. 28, 2011, Banks' story took a dramatic turn. Gibson, his accuser, requested his friendship on Facebook. He did not accept it, but asked her if she would meet with him and a private investigator. She agreed.

"Gibson met with Banks and a private investigator and recanted her preliminary hearing testimony that Banks raped her," his attorneys wrote. She said that the two had been "making out pretty heavy," but that they did not have intercourse or "anything like that."

"Gibson said that they were just playing around, being curious about sexuality, and that the adults got involved and blew it all out of proportion," according to legal documents. "She said the adults 'put stuff in [her] head.'"

The problem was that Gibson did not want to tell prosecutors the truth because she feared she would lose the $1.5 million she and her family won in a civil suit against Long Beach schools after the incident.

The California Innocence Project, a law school clinical program at California Western School of Law dedicated to releasing wrongfully convicted inmates, took on Banks' case and won his exoneration.

The Long Beach School District did not immediately respond to questions from ABC News about whether they would seek the return of the money from the civil suit.

Now, Banks is more than happy to get back to his life with a clean slate, and has not given up his NFL dreams.

"I've been training since October of last year in hopes of giving football another shot," Banks said. "I'm hoping to possibly receive a tryout from a team."

He is also working on a documentary about his life, according to his website. He said his family is "ear to ear with smiles."

"Everybody's just yelling and hugs and kisses," he said. "Everyone's just happy. So we all have on these 'innocent' shirts and 'exonerate' shirts."

When asked if he harbors any bitterness or anger about what happened, he said, "I've been asked that question a couple of times and my answer's always been no. You know I can hold on to that, that bitterness and that anger. It won't get me anywhere."

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Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio