Ohio school board fires head coach, 6 assistant coaches who forced player to eat pizza in violation of religion


CANTON, Ohio (WJW) — The Canton City School District Board of Education held a special meeting Thursday evening to discuss further discipline for a group of football coaches after they forced a player to eat an entire pizza with bacon which violated his religion.

During this meeting, the Canton school board decided to fire Head Coach Marcus Wattley, along with six assistant McKinley High School football coaches.

The seventh assistant coach being investigated was found not to have participated in the incident, the Canton City School Superintendent told NewsNation affiliate WJW’s Melissa Reid. Therefore, the coach was not fired.

The superintendent added that the incident was caught on school surveillance video and turned over to authorities.

Meanwhile, officials say Antonio Hall has been named McKinley’s interim head coach. He is currently working to compile his coaching staff.

The coaches’ termination comes after the family of a 17-year-old football player said the boy was forced to eat a pizza, then run extra drills as a form of punishment for missing practice for an injury.

The teen, who is of the Hebrew Israeli faith, objected to eating the pepperoni pizza and was eventually allowed to pick off the meat. The family’s attorney said the coach threatened to kick the boy off the team and told him his teammates would have to do extra drills if he didn’t eat the pizza.

The district initially suspended the eight coaches during its investigation into the May 24 incident.

On Wednesday, Canton City School Superintendent Jeff Talbert issued a statement, calling the coaches’ actions, “inappropriate, demeaning and divisive.”

The boy, who was not named in a news release from the family’s attorney, is a star tackle on the football team and holds a 4.0 GPA.

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