An Ohio school board has fired seven coaches after allegedly trying to make a Hebrew Israelite teen eat pepperoni pizza.
On Thursday, the Canton School District Board of Education decided to fire one high school coach and six assistant coaches after an investigation into the student. According to Fox News, the group of coaches allegedly threatened a 17-year-old football student – who is of the Hebrew Israelite faith – with extra drills for his teammates and to be kicked off the team if he did not eat pizza.
The student’s family attorney Edward Gilbert said the coaches tried to use the pork pizza as a punishment for the student missing a non-mandatory practice despite missing practice due to an injury. “What’s interesting is everyone on the team knows this child will not eat pork,” Gilbert said, according to WEWS-TV in Cleveland.
Eventually, the coaches allowed the boy to take the pepperoni off to eat the pizza. The entire incident was captured on school surveillance footage, Fox News reports. Peter Pattakos, attorney for head coach Marcus Wattley, claims the child was never forced to eat the pizza.
“The idea was okay young man; you’re so special, you want special treatment, are you hungry? I’ll buy you a pizza, and we can all watch you eat,” Pattakos said. “You’re the king; you’re the prince. It was along those lines. And the kid knew he was being disciplined. The coach was trying to teach a lesson.” He added, “This young man had every opportunity to get up and leave the room at any time.”
Wattley claims the student was also offered chicken nuggets as a substitute for the pizza. School board President John Rinaldi said, “The identified coaches engaged in actions that constituted inappropriate, demeaning and divisive behavior in a misguided attempt to instill discipline into student-athletes,” WEWS reported.