Canton high school coaches accused of forcing Jewish student to eat pork, 8 staff members on leave

Crooked River Chronicle
Crooked River Chronicle
(Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

By Collin Cunningham

(CANTON, Ohio) Eight football coaches from McKinley Senior High School in Canton were placed on administrative leave on Friday after allegedly forcing a Jewish team member to violate his religious beliefs by requiring him to eat pepperoni pizza in front of the entire team.

According to, some Jews choose not to eat pork or crab because religious texts stipulate that practitioners only consume meat from animals that chew cud and have split hooves.

“The coach had a pork pizza as a penalty for this child not showing up for practice,” attorney Edward Gilbert, who is representing the student and his family, told News 5 Cleveland. “What’s interesting is everyone on the team knows this child will not eat pork.”

Gilbert said the event took place on May 24 in retaliation for the student, a junior, missing a May 20 practice due to an injury. Coaches allegedly told him that he would have to eat an entire pepperoni pizza in front of his team members, or else they would be forced to run extra practice maneuvers.

3News reported that the student in question is a 17-year-old who carries a 4.0 GPA and has already received scholarship offers from major university football programs.

A Facebook post from the Canton City School District states all eight coaches, including head coach Marcus Wattley, will remain on suspension as the district conducts an investigation into the alleged incident.

"The incident calls into question whether appropriate team management, discipline, and player accountability infrastructures are in place," reads the post.

"Once a conclusion is reached, in accordance with our commitment to transparency, the District will provide additional information," it continues.

When speaking publicly about the event on Tuesday, 3News reported that Gilbert said the student told his coaches he doesn't eat pork at least 10 times over the course of the punishment and is now seeking counseling as a result.

“Makes you question, are they doing their job or are they capable of doing their job? Obviously, I feel like the culture is broken," said Kenny Walker, the victim's father.

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