Former McKinley football coaches file defamation lawsuit against school board members, others

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A lawsuit has been filed against many of the Canton City School Board of Education members, a former coach, an attorney and a player’s parent.

Former Canton McKinley head football coach and five of his former assistant coaches are suing after they say nine people damaged their reputations with false accusations – saying they forced a player to eat a pepperoni pizza as a punishment.

Peter Pattakos, Wattley’s attorney, filed the 67-page complaint in Stark County Common Pleas Court. The lawsuit names the player’s father, Kenny Walker; the attorney for the player’s family, Ed Gilbert; Canton City Schools Superintendent Jeff Talbert; and all five Canton City school board members, including John Rinaldi, Scott Russ, Kim Brown, David Kaminski and Eric Resnick. Former McKinley assistant coach Josh Grimsley was also named in the complaint – he claims to be the whistle blowing in the whole incident.

You can view the full complaint here

Pattakos is representing Wattley and former coaches Frank McLeod, Tyler Thatcher, Cade Brodie, Zachary Sweat and Romero Harris.

The alleged incident happened on May 24. The former coaches are accused of forcing the player to sit in the middle of the gym and eat a pepperoni pizza as a punishment, despite the player’s Hebrew Israelite religious objections.

The coaches were suspended with pay on May 26 and later removed for their coaching positions on June 3.

The coaches claim the incident did not happen as school officials and Gilbert have publicly alleged.

“The Defendants in this case have had every opportunity to fix their mistake as the truth about this matter has come to light, with player after player — including two of the three whom the district bothered to interview in its so-called “investigation” — having come forward to confirm that their coaches did nothing wrong and should be returned to their positions, and photos having surfaced of the alleged victim participating in a pork-rib-eating contest only two years prior,” said Pattakos. “Rinaldi and Co. might believe they can hide from accountability to the voters who elected them, but they can’t hide the truth from Ohio’s court system, where we expect not only to remedy the damage done to the reputations of these fine coaches and community servants who did so much to support and empower the young men in their charge, but also to help ensure that other educators who go above and beyond to help their students do not have their careers destroyed as a result of misrepresentations of their extraordinary efforts by corrupt opportunists.”