(AP) — An Ohio high school's head football
coach and six other coaches have been fired after a football player claimed he was forced to eat pork
in violation of his religious beliefs in order to miss a voluntary workout.
The Canton City Board of Education
unanimously voted Thursday not to renew the coaching contracts of Canton McKinley head football coach Marcus Wattley, two of his assistants, and an assistant baseball
coach, according to The Canton Repository, and deemed three other assistant football coaches ineligible for future coaching positions.
The district suspended the coaches last week after the 17-year-old player reported what happened to him on May 24. Another coach was also suspended, but he will remain as an assistant coach because the evidence did not show that he performed in the same manner as the other coaches, according to officials.
A lawyer for the teen player's family has announced plans to sue the school district, as the player and his family are members of the Hebrew
Israelite religious faith and do not consume pork.
District Superintendent Jeff Talbert stated that surveillance video provided administrators with the information they required to justify their recommendations to the board, but he declined to provide specifics and stated that the video would not be made public due to federal student privacy regulations.
Wattley's attorney, Peter Pattakos, stated that details of the events were exaggerated and parts of them were false, and his statements were backed up by five football players who attended the school board meeting in support of the eight coaches.
Pattakos and the students stated that the player could have left at any time, and that Wattley offered the teen chicken nuggets instead of the pizza
after the player stated that he did not eat pork, and that the player chose to eat the pepperoni
off the pizza.
Pattakos blamed an unnamed assistant coach for inflaming the situation by reporting an exaggerated version to administrators and the player's family, as well as the district for conducting a "hurried and incomplete" investigation
Talbert refuted the investigation claims, claiming that the video provided them with enough evidence to conclude that the coaches acted inappropriately.
According to the teen's attorney, Ed Gilbert, the player skipped a voluntary workout four days prior to the incident due to a sore shoulder and was ordered to sit in the middle of the gym and eat an entire pepperoni pizza, which he was allowed to remove the pepperoni and some of the cheese, but pork residue remained.
Gilbert stated that if the teen had not followed Wattley's order, he would have been subjected to additional drills and his team status would have been jeopardized.
The player is a Hebrew Israelite, not a Hebrew Israeli, as stated in the original story.