Story at a glance

  • Seven football coaches at an Ohio high school have been fired after allegedly forcing a player to violate his religious beliefs by eating pork for missing a workout.
  • The Canton City Board of Education in a unanimous decision Thursday voted not to renew the contracts of head coach Marcus Wattley, two assistants and an assistant baseball coach.
  • District Superintendent Jeff Talbert said surveillance video revealed to the board sufficient evidence for their decision.

Seven coaches at an Ohio high school have been fired after reportedly forcing a player to violate his religious beliefs by eating pork for missing a workout. 

The Canton City Board of Education voted unanimously Thursday not to renew the contracts of head coach Marcus Wattley, two assistants and an assistant baseball coach, The Canton Repository reported. Three other coaches were also voted ineligible for future positions

Eight coaches were suspended last week after reports surfaced that a 17-year-old student was forced to eat pepperoni pizza, which violated his religious observance, for missing a voluntary conditioning workout. 

District Superintendent Jeff Talbert said surveillance video revealed to the board sufficient evidence for their decision. But Talbert added that the video will not be made available to the public, the outlet reported. 


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Peter Pattakos, an attorney representing Wattley, claimed the details of the event were misleading and the player was offered alternatives to the pizza after the player, who is of the Hebrew Israeli religious faith, told the coaching staff he could not eat pork. Five players reportedly attested to Pattakos’s claim at the board meeting. 

The attorney alleges an unnamed assistant coach exaggerated the situation to school officials and the student’s family and said the district conducted a “rushed and incomplete” investigation. Pattakos argued that Wattley “was doing his best to teach an extraordinary athlete an important lesson.”

“The most important thing for Mr. Wattley at this point is that the truth comes out so that his name is cleared of these ridiculous charges against him, and we will make sure that happens,” Pattakos said in a statement, per The Canton Repository.

The player’s attorney, Ed Gilbert, who plans to sue the school on first amendment grounds, said at a press conference on Tuesday that the teen missed the workout due to an injury. Gilbert continued that the student was then forced to sit in the middle of the gym while eating, adding that the teen was told his teammates would have to do extra work if he did not do as he was told. 

Gilbert said after the decision that there is “no joy in seeing this.” 

“We have a number of careers that have been destroyed here. Nobody wins in this,” Gilbert added according to the outlet.


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Published on Jun 04, 2021