Ohio’s Finest: Football coaches allegedly compels teen to eat pork as punishment; the teen is a Hebrew Israelite

Eight football coaches in Canton, Ohio thought it was a good idea to punish one of their players by compelling him to eat a pepperoni pizza in front of the team as part of a punishment; the coaches are now all on paid leave.

Attorneys for the young man claim head coach, Marcus Wattley and seven assistant coaches, violated the young man’s First Amendment rights by compelling ‘the boy to eat pork on May 24 despite his numerous objections because of his faith. Gilbert said the family plans to sue the school district.’

What was the young man’s crime? He injured his shoulder May 19 and that he skipped practice the next day. 

According to the Washington Post:

When the teenager showed up May 24 to a voluntary strength and conditioning session, Gilbert said, he was ordered to sit in a chair in the middle of the school’s gym. Then, Wattley, who has been at the school for two years, allegedly gave him an ultimatum: Eat the pepperoni pizza for skipping practice or his teammates would face additional drills.

The unidentified teenager repeatedly told his coaches that his faith forbade him from eating pork and pork residue. Although the coaches allowed the young man to pick off some of the pepperoni, pork residue still remained on the pizza. The young man’s family claim that coaches should know the dietary restrictions various religions place on their following. Some Hebrew Israelites avoid dairy, eggs and sugar.

James Pasch, regional director for the Anti-Defamation League’s Cleveland office, called the coaches’ actions “abhorrent.”

“For school coaches to reportedly force a student to eat food in violation of his religious beliefs is unacceptable [and] outrageous,” he tweeted. “This student deserved better; all students deserve better.”

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