Football Coach Suspended After Allegedly Forcing Jewish Player To Eat Pork

A high school football coach in Ohio was placed on administrative leave Wednesday after a Jewish football player accused him of making him eat pork, which violates the practices of his religion.

Seven other coaching staff in the football team were also suspended by The Canton City School district in the city of the same name.

Coach Marcus Wattley and seven assistant coaches forced a 17-year-old McKinley High School football player to eat a whole pepperoni pizza as a punishment after the student-athlete missed a weight lifting session on May 20, the boy's family attorney Edward L. Gilbert alleged.

Gilbert told 19News that the ordeal was traumatizing and disrespectful to the McKinley High junior, who is Jewish and follows a kosher diet.

The attorney added that it was common knowledge among the footballers at the school that the 17-year-old did not eat pork for religious reasons.

"In his view, the whole pizza was spoiled. The whole pizza was something that could not be ingested," Gilbert told the news channel.

"He was ordered to eat that, and if he did not eat it then he would be most likely removed from the team, and the other teammates would have to do extra exercise that day. So you have the whole team around in this gym. You have eight coaches there yelling at him that he has to eat this stuff."

After the boy finished the pizza he was instructed to do further exercises, Gilbert said.

"It's our view that certainly for religious reasons this was inappropriate," the attorney added. "It was a dumb thing to do by the coach, and we haven't been able to understand what was in this coach's mind at the time."

"To punish a kid thing like this for his religious beliefs is certainly beyond, it's ridiculous."

The student's family is considering filing a lawsuit against the school district, Gilbert said. The lawyer said the family were not sure whether the student will go back to school, but "most likely he will not."

Newsweek has contacted Wattley and the school for further comment.

The school issued a statement on its website saying the wellbeing of its students was its "top priority" and it was investigating the incident.

"The incident calls into question whether appropriate team management, discipline, and player accountability infrastructures are in place," it said.

"The District is nearing the completion of its investigation regarding this incident. Once a conclusion is reached, following our commitment to transparency, the District will provide additional information.

"The football program, which has a long and impressive history, is an important part of our school culture and our community. That program has a proud tradition of instilling the attributes of excellence, leadership, community, accountability, hard work, and respect into the players and those associated with the overall program. As such, those entrusted with the protection of our student-athletes must be held to a higher standard within our community.

"Let us be clear, the Canton City School District holds all staff to the highest professional and ethical standards. Anything short of these standards is unacceptable."

Pizza on grass
A stock photo of a pepperoni pizza. A high school football coach was placed on administrative leave on Wednesday after a Jewish football player accused him of making him a pepperoni pizza, which contains pork and violates the practices of his religion. Smith Collection/Gado/Getty