Former Ohio football player sues school district and coach for being forced to eat pork – 960 The Ref
TOWNSHIP, Ohio – A former Ohio high school football player is suing his school district and former coaches, claiming they forced him to eat pepperoni pizza against his religious beliefs after he missed a voluntary practice.
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The student, now 18, filed a trial Wednesday in Akron in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio, Eastern Division, against the Canton City School District and its former coaches. The student and his parents, who are not named in the lawsuit, claim their civil rights were violated when he missed a weightlifting session on May 24 and was forced to eat the pizza, Repository of Canton reported.
The teenager, called “KW” in the lawsuit, and his family are Hebrew Israelites, which means they do not consume port, WOIO-TV reported.
According to the lawsuit, the family seeks $ 10.1 million in compensatory damages and $ 3.4 million in punitive damages, in addition to “the injunction, emotional pain, suffering, inconvenience, l mental anguish, attorney fees, costs and any other legal or equitable remedy as this honorable court deems fair and equitable.
The defendants in the lawsuit include Canton City School District and Canton City School District School Board; Superintendent Jeff Talbert; and former McKinley High School coaches Marcus Wattley, Frank McLeod, Zachary Sweat, Romero Harris, Cade Brodie, Tyler Thatcher and Josh Grimsley, Repository reported.
In June 2021, the Canton City School Board voted unanimously do not renew the coaching contract of Wattley, the head coach; assistants Brodie and Thatcher; and McLeod, an assistant baseball coach who had related duties in the weight room. McLeod, Sweat and Grimsley were declared ineligible for future coaching positions, Repository reported.
>> Ohio football coach fired after player claims he was forced to eat pork
The former player, who is expected to graduate from high school in June 2022, now attends a school district more than 160 km from Canton, according to Repository.
The trial allegations mirror the claims made by the player’s father and family attorney Ed Gilbert during a press conference in June. Gilbert had threatened legal action, but later said the family were seeking to negotiate a resolution, Repository reported.
“The central facts of this case are undisputed,” Gilbert said in a press release. “The family has had intense settlement discussions with the Canton School District. These discussions resulted in a resolution. However, the district insurance company backed out of the settlement, forcing the family to move forward with the dispute.
“The affected child was forced to leave the district due to threats from his teammates and members of the Canton community. The child is mentally devastated.
According to Gilbert, the player was told that his teammates would be forced to do extra drills if he refused to eat the pizza, and that his position on the team could be compromised, The New York Times reported.
Lawyer Peter Pattakos, who represents several of the former coaches, maintained in a statement that the former player’s initial claims were false.
“When this story first broke last spring, we immediately presented evidence – including statements from more than a dozen eyewitnesses – showing that the savage accusations that the trainers forced KW to eat pizza versus religion were false and defamatory, ”Pattakos said. “After Ed Gilbert, his clients and the district officials who falsely fired the coaches refused to withdraw their false claims and reinstate these excellent coaches, we sued them for defamation in a case that was pending in County Stark in July.
“With their efforts to extort a settlement from the district having failed, Ed Gilbert and his clients had no choice but to file this pathetic complaint as a defense to the coaches’ libel claims against them.”
In a statement, Talbert said: “The council will deal with the claims, which it says are unfounded, through legal process.”
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