The head football coach of an Ohio high school and six other coaches have been evicted after a football player said he was forced to eat pork in violation of his religious beliefs to miss a voluntary workout .
The Canton City Board of Education voted unanimously on Thursday not to renew the coaching contracts of Canton McKinley head football coach Marcus Watley, two of his assistants and an assistant baseball coach, The Canton Repository reported. With the same vote, the board also deemed three other assistant football coaches ineligible for future coaching positions.
The district suspended coaches last week after the 17-year-old reported an incident that happened to him on May 24. Another coach was also suspended but will remain as assistant coach as evidence does not show that he performed in the same. Like other coaches, officials said.
A lawyer for the teen player’s family has announced plans to sue the school district. The player and his family are members of the Hebrew Israeli religious faith and do not eat pork.
District Superintendent Jeff Talbert said the surveillance video gave administrators the information needed to warrant their recommendations to the board. However, he declined to provide details of what happened and said the video would not be released publicly due to federal student privacy regulations.
Peter Pattakos, an attorney retained by Watley, said the details of the events were exaggerated and that parts are false. His statements were supported by five football players who attended the school board meeting in support of the eight coaches.
Pattakos and the students said that the player could leave at any time, adding that Watley offered juvenile chicken nuggets instead of pizza after the player did not eat pork. He said the player decided to take off the pepperoni and eat it.
Pattakos blamed an assistant coach, whom he did not name, of fomenting the situation by reporting an exaggerated version to the administrators and the player’s family. Pattakos also accused the district of conducting a “hasty and incomplete” investigation.
Talbert disputed the investigation’s claims, saying the video gave him enough information to determine that the coaches acted improperly.
The teen’s lawyer, Ed Gilbert, said the player had given up a voluntary workout four days before the incident while suffering shoulder pain. Gilbert said he was ordered to sit in the middle of the gym and eat a whole pepperoni pizza. Gilbert said he was allowed to remove the pepperoni and some of the cheese, but the pork remains.
Gilbert said the teenager would be subjected to extra practice and that his position in the team could be in jeopardy if he had not followed Watley’s orders.
This story has been corrected to show that the player is Hebrew Israeli, not Hebrew Israeli.