After learning that a student was forced to eat pizza with pork residue on it by eight football coaches, although they knew he was Jewish, an Ohio Highschool on June 3 decided their action was cause for dismissal from their jobs. But the real story is not so clear-cut.
On May 24, a 17-year-old football player was ordered to eat an entire pizza with pepperoni toppings to penalize him for his absence from a voluntary practice four days prior, said the family’s attorney Edward Gilbert.
After telling his coaches that he had a Hebrew Israeli background, which means that pork was forbidden in his diet, the student ended up eating the same pizza but with the toppings removed. However, there was no certainty that the pork residue was completely taken off, reported CantonRep.
Upon notification of the event, Canton City Schools launched an investigation and found the coaches’ penalty on their trainee was “inappropriate, demeaning, and divisive behavior.” As a result, on May 26, the school board resolved to oust the head coach Marcus Wattley and his seven assistant coaches from their positions.
Allegedly, the young football player was given a choice to either eat the pizza, or his teammates would undertake extra exercises as a penalty for his absence from voluntary practice.
The player’s father, Kenny Walker, said his son “expressed anger, frustration, hurt and felt ostracized after the incident, which included his son’s teammates and coaches yelling at his son while he ate.”
“It is just one of those situations that is just beyond comprehension in today’s society,” Gilbert responded.
But the full details of the event were not that simple.
According to attorney Peter Pattakos and five McKinley football players’ testimonies, the coaches offered the student chicken nuggets instead after hearing of his religious background. Still, he proceeded to eat the pizza after removing the toppings.
“This community deserves a full and thorough investigation and it’s obvious that this hasn’t happened,” said Pattakos on June 3.
“This was a bad decision. It was rushed. You did not serve the community,” Pattakos accused. However, the school board insisted that they had enough evidence with camera footage.
Pattakos had requested for a delay in removing the coaches but was rejected.
“For inexplicable reasons, the board denied this basic request and refused to listen to these young men, reflecting that the district’s leadership is not interested in the truth of this matter, and is instead motivated by something else,” he wrote in a June 3 statement on behalf of his defendant, head coach Wattley.
Meanwhile, although Gilbert did not object to the move to fire the football instructors, he did not Welcome the coaches’ fate.
“There is no joy in seeing this. … We have a number of careers that have been destroyed here. Nobody wins in this,” the student’s family lawyer said.
CantopRep added that the student had apologized to his team and coaches for the exaggerated narrative.
School superintendent Jeff Talbert has filed a police report “in an effort to be comprehensive, and with our student’s health and wellbeing in mind.”
Canton Police Chief Jack Angelo said based on the Ohio Revised Code, a hazing violation likely would be the charge, but the type of charge would be up to the Canton city prosecutor.