High school football coaches ousted after player says he was forced to eat pork

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CANTON, Ohio (AP/WJW) — The head football coach at an Ohio high school and six other coaches there have been ousted after a football player said he was forced him to eat pork in violation of his religious beliefs for missing a voluntary workout.

The Canton City Board of Education voted unanimously Thursday to not renew the coaching contracts of Canton McKinley head football coach Marcus Wattley, two of his assistants and an assistant baseball coach.

With the same vote, the board also deemed three other assistant football coaches as ineligible for future coaching positions.

An attorney retained by Wattley says details of the events were exaggerated and parts are false.

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

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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