A Jewish high school football player in Ohio was allegedly forced by his coach to eat pork — a violation of his religious beliefs — as a form of punishment.
According to 19 news in Cleveland, Ohio, coach Wattley Marcus and seven members of the football staff at McKinley High School forced a 17-year-old boy to eat a pepperoni pizza after he missed a weight-lifting session in May.
“They order him to go into the gym. He sits in a chair,” family attorney Edward L. Gilbert said. “There is a pizza box on the floor. He picks up the pizza — they tell him he has to, as punishment, eat that whole pizza.”
Gilbert claimed that the football community knew that the boy did not eat pork due to his religious affiliation, and he was forced to do additional exercises after eating the pizza.
“In his view, the whole pizza was spoiled,” Gilbert said. “The whole pizza was something that could not be ingested. He was ordered to eat that, and if he did not eat it then he would be most likely removed from the team, and the other teammates would have to do extra exercise that day. So you have the whole team around in this gym. You have eight coaches there yelling at him that he has to eat this stuff.”
Gilbert told 19 News the boy is a star athlete who already has several full-ride scholarship offers to play football in college. It’s unclear if the boy will return to McKinley High School.
Marcus was placed on administrative leave by the Canton City school district and the seven members of the football staff involved in the incident have been suspended.
The Canton City School district issued a statement on its website:
At the Canton City Schools, the safety and wellbeing of our students is our top priority.
An incident occurred during a football training session that was concerning enough to warrant immediate action by the Canton City School District. That immediate action was the suspension of eight members of the High School Football Coaching Staff, including the head coach, while an investigation is conducted.
The incident calls into question whether appropriate team management, discipline, and player accountability infrastructures are in place.
The District is nearing the completion of its investigation regarding this incident. Once a conclusion is reached, following our commitment to transparency, the District will provide additional information.
The football program, which has a long and impressive history, is an important part of our school culture and our community. That program has a proud tradition of instilling the attributes of excellence, leadership, community, accountability, hard work, and respect into the players and those associated with the overall program. As such, those entrusted with the protection of our student-athletes must be held to a higher standard within our community.
Let us be clear, the Canton City School District holds all staff to the highest professional and ethical standards. Anything short of these standards is unacceptable.
As educators, we are united in the pursuit of creating an inclusive and safe learning environment for our students in the classroom and beyond.
According to The Seattle Times, the attorney for the family announced plans to sue the school district.