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8 McKinley High School football coaches on paid leave after parent says kosher son forced to eat pepperoni pizza

Posted at 1:36 PM, Jun 01, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-02 09:19:00-04

CANTON, Ohio — With an attorney by his side, the father of a junior at McKinley Senior High School shared his anger after he told News 5 his son, who is a member of the Hebrew Israeli religious faith, was forced to eat a pepperoni pizza in front of his entire team.

That faith forbids the consumption of pork or pork residue.

“The coach had a pork pizza as a penalty for this child not showing up for practice,” attorney Edward Gilbert said. “What’s interesting is everyone on the team knows this child will not eat pork.”

Gilbert explained how the teen had missed a practice because of an injury on May 20, and when he returned on May 24, coaches forced him to sit in the middle of the gym and consume an entire pepperoni pizza in front of the team, or else his teammates would be forced to run extra drills and the player’s status on the team was put into question.

“To say the coach used poor judgment would be an understatement,” Gilbert said. “This was humiliating for this child.”

The player’s father said his family has not consumed pork since 2013 as part of their religious faith.

“I felt very upset, I felt disrespected,” he said. “Makes you question if they are doing their job or are they capable of doing their job. Obviously, I feel the culture is broken.”

News 5 reached out to a spokesperson with Canton City School District who confirmed that the team's head coach, along with seven assistants, have been placed on paid administrative leave.

Gilbert explained how talks with the school and the superintendent are not where they would like, which means they plan to file a lawsuit.

“This is a first amendment issue and yes, there will most likely be a lawsuit,” he said. “The coach was inappropriate in the way he handled this. It was a stupid act.”

A Facebook post from Canton City School District on Friday explained:

"The incident calls into question whether appropriate team management, discipline, and player accountability infrastructures are in place. The District is nearing the completion of its investigation regarding this incident. Once a conclusion is reached, in accordance with our commitment to transparency, the District will provide additional information."