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An Ohio high school coach and six assistant coaches were fired Thursday for an incident in which they allegedly tried to force a soccer player to eat a pepperoni pizza despite his religious diet restrictions banning pork.
The Canton City School District Committee made the decision during a special session following an investigation, Cleveland-based FOX 8 reported.
The family of a 17-year-old Hebrew-Israeli boy from Canton McKinley High School alleged the student was threatened with additional exercises and kicked off the team for not eating the pizza.
Family attorney Edward Gilbert said the pork pizza was used as a punishment because the player missed training due to an injury. “The interesting thing is that everyone on the team knows this kid doesn’t eat pork,” he said on WEWS-TV in Cleveland.
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The student was finally allowed to take the pepperoni from the pizza and eat it, reported FOX 8.
The incident was captured on a school surveillance video.
Head coach Marcus Wattley’s attorney Peter Pattakos said the student was never forced to eat the pizza.
“This young man had every opportunity to get up and leave the room at any time,” said Pattakos.
“The coaches identified have committed inappropriate, degrading and divisive behavior in a misguided attempt to instill discipline in student-athletes,” said school board president John Rinaldi, according to WEWS.
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An interim trainer has been named.