Marcus Wattley McKinley football coach at Canton, Ohio high school & six assistant coaches fired for forcing Jewish player to eat pepperoni pizza as disciplinary measure.
Head coach, Marcus Wattley and seven assistant coaches at McKinley Senior High School in Canton had initially been suspended after allegedly ordering the 17-year-old to eat an entire pizza with pepperoni residue against his religious beliefs, according to the Canton Reporter.
Come Thursday, the city school board voted unanimously not to renew Wattley’s coaching contract, after an investigation found he had engaged in ‘inappropriate, demeaning, and divisive behavior’ during the May 24 incident.
Seven assistant coaches also lost their jobs. They were identified as Cade Brodie, Joshua Grimsley, Romero Harris, Frank McLeod, Zachary Sweat, and Tyler Thatcher.
‘The investigation found that the identified coaches engaged in actions that constituted inappropriate, demeaning, and divisive behavior in a misguided attempt to instill discipline in the student-athletes,’ district Superintendent Jeff Talbert said in a statement according to WKYC.
When an authority figure’s conduct is worse than the student’s alleged misconduct
Talbert said the decision to strip the coaches of their jobs was made based on surveillance video of the incident, which took place in the school’s gym.
‘What is on that video shows that what happened on May 24th is an ill-mannered attempt to instill accountability and discipline in our students. The type of behavior was inappropriate, demeaning, and divisive,’ Talbert said.
Coaches allegedly forced the boy to eat the pizza because he skipped a voluntary strength and conditioning practice May 20 due to an injured shoulder.
The coaches allegedly told the boy his teammates would be forced to do extra drills — and that he would lose his position on the team — if he didn’t eat it, according to the student’s lawyer, Ed Gilbert.
More to the story?
‘He is of the belief — and that’s what hurts him so bad — that the coach knew of his beliefs and wanted to punish him, and it’s our view that it was done intentionally and that it was a punitive act,’ Gilbert told the New York Times. ‘The coach told him, in order to have respect and stay on this team, you have to eat the pizza.’
The teen was reportedly shouted at by coaches and teammates as he ate the pizza after removing slices of pepperoni.
An attorney representing Marcus Wattley told WKYC that there’s more to this story that hasn’t been told.
‘This young man is one of the most talented members of the team and he’s let the team down, not showing up to practices, not communicating with his team, not fulfilling the role of a team leader,’ attorney Peter Pattakos told the media outlet. ‘The idea was okay young man, you’re so special, you want special treatment, are you hungry? I’ll buy you a pizza and we can all watch you eat. You’re the king, you’re the prince. It was along those lines. And the kid knew he was being disciplined. The coach was trying to teach a lesson.’
Which is to wonder: if one believes they have the moral superiority, why resort to shameful, derogatory and demeaning tactics to get your point across?
Gilbert said the student is now in therapy because of the harassment.
The boy’s family has said it plans to sue the school district.