A senior Ohio high school football coach and six other coaches were fired after a football player allegedly forced him to eat pork for violating his beliefs about failing to train voluntarily.
The Cardon City Board of Education voted unanimously on Thursday not to renew contracts to coach Canton McKinley football coach Marcus Wattley, his two assistants and an assistant baseball coach, The Canton Repository reported. With the same vote, the board also saw other assistant football coaches as unfit for future coaching positions.
The district suspended the coaches last week after the 17-year-old reported the incident to him on May 24. Another coach was suspended but he will continue as deputy coach because evidence did not show he did the same with other coaches, officials said.
A young athlete's family lawyer has announced plans to sue the school district. The athlete and his family are members of the Israeli religion and do not eat pork.
Superintendent District Jeff Talbert said the monitoring video gives managers the information they need to confirm their recommendations to the board. However, he declined to comment further, saying the video would not be released in public due to student privacy laws.
Peter Pattakos, a lawyer kept by Wattley, said the details of the events were exaggerated and parts of them were false. His statements were backed up by five footballers who attended a school board meeting in support of eight coaches.
Pattakos and students said the player could have left at any time, adding that Wattley offered young chickens instead of chickens after the player said he did not eat pork. They said the player chose to take out the pepper and eat it.
Pattakos accused the assistant coach, who did not name him, of inciting the situation by reporting an exaggerated version to the player's management and family. Pattakos also accused the district of conducting "urgent and incomplete" investigations.
Talbert denied the allegations in the investigation, saying the video provided them with enough information to find out that the coaches were acting improperly.
Advocate for the youth, Ed Gilbert, said the athlete had undergone voluntary training four days before the incident when he had a severe shoulder injury. He was told to sit in the middle of the gym and eat a whole pepperoni pizza, Gilbert said. He was allowed to remove the pepperoni and other cheese, but only the remains of the pig, Gilbert said.
The boy would have had further tests and his position on the team could have been in jeopardy if he had not followed Wattley's instructions, Gilbert said.