McKinley Senior High School head football coach Marcus Wattley and seven asst. coaches in Canton, Ohio are on paid leave after forcing a 17-year old player, a Hebrew Israelite, to violate his faith and eat pork as punishment for missing practice after he sustained an injury, The Washington Post reports.
The student, who is not being named, was forced to sit in the middle of a gymnasium and eat a pepperoni pizza with his fellow players egging him on. Not only would his position on the team be jeopardized if he refused, but his fellow players would also be subjected to punishment because of his actions.
"Ed Gilbert, the family's attorney, said at a news conference Tuesday that the Canton City School District violated the child's First Amendment rights," The Post notes, when the coaches "compelled 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."
The 17-year old "was verbally assaulted by the coaches and faced pressure from his peers to eat the pizza despite his religious beliefs."
The student had skipped practice May 20 after injuring his shoulder one day prior, but on the 24th showed up for a voluntary strength and conditioning session. That's when his First Amendment rights were allegedly violated.
"Because he is a Hebrew Israelite, the player allegedly told the coaches at least 10 times that he was forbidden to eat pork or pork residue, according to Gilbert. The coaches allowed the athlete to remove some of the pepperoni from the pizza, but the pork residue was still on the slices, the attorney said at Tuesday's news conference."
Despite giving in to the coaches' demands, his fellow players yelled at him as he ate the pizza.