Seven high school football coaches in Canton, Ohio, have lost their jobs after allegedly losing their damn minds and violating a Black student-athlete’s religious freedom by forcing him to eat pork. The student, whose name hasn’t been revealed, reportedly missed practice due to an injury and seven idiots who should never have been in charge of teenagers apparently thought it would be a good idea to punish him by making him eat a pepperoni pizza. Bruh, what the fuck?
The Washington Post reports that Marcus Wattley, the now-former head football coach at McKinley senior High School, who is also Black, (*ancestors face-palm*) and a total of seven assistant coaches were originally placed on paid administrative leave after the May 24, incident while it was being investigated.
During a news conference Tuesday, Ed Gilbert, an attorney who represents the family of the student, who is a Hebrew Israelite, said that the family plans to file a lawsuit against the Canton City School District over the student’s First Amendment rights being violated.
Gilbert told The Washington Post on Wednesday that the 17-year-old, who has not been publicly identified, was verbally assaulted by the coaches and faced pressure from his peers to eat the pizza despite his religious beliefs.
Peter Pattakos, an attorney for Wattley, said that the player’s version of events were exaggerated and that the boy had the ability to leave at any time, the Repository reported.
Gilbert told The Post that the boy, who is reportedly 6-foot-5 and 280 pounds, injured his shoulder May 19 and that he skipped practice the next day. 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 player’s refusal to eat the pizza also would mean that his position on the team could be jeopardized, the Repository reported.
He had the ability to leave at any time? Yeeeeaaah, nah. You don’t get to be an adult and authority figure coercing a teenager into eating something he doesn’t want to eat under threat of losing his spot on the team and then try to say he wasn’t forced because technically nobody duct-taped him to the chair.
According to Gilbert, the student told the coaches at least 10 times that he was forbidden to eat pork due to his religious beliefs and that even pork residue was a no-no for him. (Apparently, the coaches allowed him to pick as much of the pepperoni off as he could, but anyone who has ever eaten a pepperoni pizza knows that even if you successfully get them all off without ripping your slice to shreds, the pork residue will still be there in all its potency.)
The Post noted that “some Hebrew Israelites shun dairy, eggs and sugar ,” so it’s possible that by making the student eat any part of that pizza, the coaches were violating his religion. Also, religious freedom aside, you just don’t fuck with someone’s dietary restrictions like that, bruh. I’ve had friends who don’t eat pork become ill after accidentally ingesting it. How are you coaching athletes with no regard to their physical health? (It’s worth the reminder that a physical injury is reportedly what caused the student to miss practice in the first place.)
Anyway, according to The Canton Repository, Wattley was let go along with assistant coaches Cade Brodie, Joshua Grimsley, Romero Harris, Frank McLeod, Zachary Sweat and Tyler Thatcher. An eighth coach, Badre El Bardawil, was also involved in the incident but he was allowed to keep his job because investigators found that he hadn’t “performed in the same manner as the other coaches,” according to Superintendent Jeff Talbert.
I mean, this is just a hell of a stupid-ass way to lose your job. But good riddance—no student of any faith should have to put up with this.