CANTON, Ohio (WJW)– The family of a McKinley High School football player is calling for more action after it says the head coach forced the teen to eat a pizza.
The 17-year-old belongs to the Hebrew Israeli faith, which strictly forbids eating pork or pork residue.
The incident happened on May 24 after the junior missed practice with an injury. According to the family’s attorney, head coach Marcus Wattley made the teen sit in the middle of the gym and eat the whole pizza. If he didn’t, his surrounding teammates would have to run extra drills. The attorney said Wattley also threatened to kick the teen off the team.
The boy repeatedly told the coach he did not eat pork and eventually he was allowed to pick off the pepperoni. Grease still remained on the pizza, however.
After finishing, the teen was ordered to do extra drills outside, according to the attorney.
Canton City Schools said it suspended eight members of the high school football coaching staff, including the head coach. It is conducting an investigation into the incident.
“The incident calls into question whether appropriate team management, discipline, and player accountability infrastructures are in place,” the district said in a statement on Friday.
The boy’s family said Wattley’s actions were a, “violation of the constitutional rights of this child,” and are threatening legal action.
“The family does not feel that this suspension is adequate. The school has not offered any counseling for the child. The child is devastated due to consuming the pork grease pizza and being degraded in front of the entire team,” the attorney said in a news release on Tuesday.
The student, who is not named in the news release, is a tackle on the football team and has a 4.0 GPA.
Editor’s note: A previous version incorrectly identified the 17-year-old student as Jewish instead of Hebrew Israeli.