A former high-school football player wants $4 million in legal damages after his coaches allegedly forced him to eat pizza covered in pork grease, according to a lawsuit.
The apparent pizza punishment, levied because the student missed a mandatory weight-lifting session, violated the student’s religious beliefs, he claimed in a federal court papers.
The student, identified only as K.W., is a Black Hebrew Israelite, a faith which forbids consuming pork or pork residue, according to the litigation filed in Ohio.
K.W. was a starter on the football team at McKinley High School in Canton, Ohio, but after he skipped a mandatory weight-lifting session, he was confronted with a large pepperoni pizza, the suit says.
Head coach Marcus Wattley — who has since been fired — and other district employees allegedly forced K.W. to sit alone in a chair in a gym, as his 30-odd teammates lifted weight and sprinted in a circle around him.
K.W. was told if he didn’t eat the whole pizza his future on the team would be in jeopardy, he claimed in court papers.
His teammates, who were “not allowed to stop” their exercises until he finished, allegedly threatened him, he charged.
After his religious objections, K.W. was allowed to remove the pepperoni — but the “pork grease” residue was still on the pie, he alleged.
The whole May 2021 fiasco was captured on surveillance video, according to court papers.
After he ate the pizza, the coaches forced him to “run up and down the football field and practice ‘duck walks,’ ” said the student, who later switched schools.
He’s seeking $3 million in compensatory damages and $1 million in punitive damages.
Wattley and other coaches have denied the allegations — and in July filed a defamation suit against the family and school district, the Canton Repository reported.
“When this story first broke last spring, we immediately came forward with evidence – including statements from more than a dozen eyewitnesses – showing that the wild accusations that the coaches forced [K.W.] to eat pizza against his religion were false and defamatory,” Peter Pattakos, the coaches’ attorney, said, according to the paper.
The coaches said they didn’t force K.W. to eat anything, offered him chicken nuggets as an alternative — and that K.W. chose to pick off the pepperoni and eat the pie, the paper reported.
The school district did not immediately return a request for comment.