Joe Robbins, Getty
Six football coaches at Canton McKinley High School in Ohio have been fired for allegedly forcing a player to eat pork — which goes against his religious beliefs — as punishment for missing a voluntary workout. According to a report fromThe Repository, the Canton City school board unanimously voted Thursday to not renew the contracts of head football coach Marcus Wattley, assistant coaches Cade Brodie and Tyler Thatcher, while also deeming assistant coaches Frank McLeod, Zachary Sweat, and Josh Grimsley as ineligible for future positions.
Assistant baseball coach Romero Harris, who had “related duties” in the school’s weight room, was also dismissed.
The firing of over half a dozen coaches stems from what was described as a “misguided attempt to instill discipline.” The coaches in question had allegedly punished a player for missing a voluntary strength and conditioning workout by forcing him to eat an entire pepperoni pizza, which is in direct violation of the student’s Hebrew Israelite religious beliefs.
Following an investigation into the incident, Canton City Schools Superintendent Jeff Talbert called the coaching staff’s actions “inappropriate, demeaning and divisive.”
An attorney for Wattley, as well as five football players, have disputed the claim. They claim that the coaching staff offered the player chicken nuggets — instead of the pizza — after he told them he did not eat pork, and that he eventually removed the pepperoni slices from the pizza and ate it.
The attorney for Wattley claimed that an assistant coach reported “an exaggerated version to administrators and the player’s family,” with the ulterior motive of taking Wattley’s job. The attorney for the player in question disputes that defense, saying that the student was not offered any alternative food and is now undergoing psychological counseling as a result of the entire situation.
“There is no joy in seeing this,” Ed Gilbert, the attorney for the player and his family, said following the decision to dismiss members of the coaching staff. “… We have a number of careers that have been destroyed here. Nobody wins in this.”
Wattley’s firing as head coach at Canton McKinley comes after two seasons, which saw his team post a 14-6 record and win a Federal League championship.