A 17-year-old who does not eat pork due to his religious beliefs as a Hebrew Israelite was allegedly forced to eat an entire pepperoni pizza by his high school football coach, who knew about those beliefs. The teen missed an optional practice due to an injury, and four days later, the pizza was forced upon him as punishment, the family's lawyer says. He ate it as the entire team watched and teammates yelled at him, the Washington Post reports. He was then allegedly forced to do extra drills, KRON reports. Ohio's Canton City School District has since suspended the coach and seven assistant coaches at McKinley Senior High School, and the Canton Police Department is investigating the allegations as a possible hazing incident, the New York Times reports. The family also plans to sue the district.
District officials conducted their own investigation into the May 20 incident prior to issuing the suspensions, and found that the coaches, who are on paid leave, engaged in "inappropriate, demeaning, and divisive behavior in a misguided attempt to instill discipline in the student-athletes," a statement says. Further disciplinary actions against the coaches are expected. The family's lawyer says that while the boy was eventually allowed to remove the pepperoni, residue remained; his religion forbids the consumption of any amount of pork, including residue, News 5 Cleveland reports. The boy was allegedly told that if he did not eat it, his future on the team would be in doubt and his teammates would be forced to run drills. A coach who was not present for the incident reported it to the school after hearing about it. (Read more Ohio stories.)