A high school football coach and seven assistant coaches at Canton McKinley High School in Ohio were placed on administrative leave after a Jewish student said that he was forced to eat pork as a “punishment” for missing a weight training session, Ohio news outlets reported.
Four days after the 17-year-old student missed practice, Coach Wattley Marcus and the assistant coaches forced him to sit on the floor in the middle of the gym and eat an entire pizza with pepperoni, specifically chosen because it’s made out of pork, in front of the whole team. Everyone in the room was aware that the student keeps kosher and refrains from eating pork products.
The coaches told him that if he doesn’t eat the pizza, they would force the entire team to run extra drills and maybe kick him off the team.
Attorney Edward Gilbert, who is representing the student, said that he is considering filing a first-amendment lawsuit against the Canton City School District. “This is a first amendment issue,” he said. “The coach had a pork pizza as a penalty for this child not showing up for practice,” he said, according to News-5 TV Cleveland. “What’s interesting is everyone on the team knows this child will not eat pork.”
The student, who is a top athlete and has received several offers of full scholarships to play college football may not return to the high school or its top-ranking football team. He is also receiving counseling in wake of the incident.
A statement issued by the Canton City School District said that the incident is under investigation. “The incident calls into question whether appropriate team management, discipline, and player accountability infrastructures are in place,” the statement said. “The Canton City School District holds all staff to the highest professional and ethical standards. Anything short of these standards is unacceptable.”