Attorney: Canton McKinley football coaches forced player to consume pork against player’s religious beliefs


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More details are being released regarding the suspension of eight McKinley football coaches, including the team’s head coach.

The family of a Canton McKinley football player has obtained an attorney after they say Head Coach Marcus Wattley forced the 17-year-old player to consume pork against his religious beliefs Monday, May 24th at a practice.

Ed Gilbert, the attorney for the football player’s family, said the juvenile missed a voluntary football practice on Thursday, May 20th, so he could nurse a slight shoulder injury he received during a previous practice. The attorney alleges when the player returned to practice on the 24th, Coach Wattley ordered him to sit in the middle of the gym and consume an entire pepperoni pizza.

Gilbert said the coaches told the McKinley junior that if he did not consume the pizza, his teammates, who witnessed the incident, would have to run extra drills. Wattley also threatened to kick the player off the team, according to the family’s attorney.

The child, whose name is not being released at this time, told coach Wattley at least 10 times that he did not eat pork because he is a member of the Hebrew Israeli religious faith – which strictly forbids the consumption of pork or pork residue.

Attorney Gilbert said Coach Wattley allowed the player to remove the pepperoni and some of the cheese from the pizza, but grease and residue from the pork was “clearly in the sauce and through the crust.” He says the player was forced to consume the whole pizza, except the end crusts. He was ordered to do extra outside drills after he ate the pizza.

Attorney Gilbert says Coach Wattley’s actions were supported by a number of his assistant coaches. He says these actions are “clearly in violation of the constitutional rights of the child.”

Although the Canton City School District suspended the coaches with pay, which is district policy, the family of the player does not feel the paid suspension is enough.

Attorney Gilbert says the school has not offered any counseling for the child and says the player may be affected for life.

The family of the player intends to seek legal actions unless the districts resolves the issue right away.