An Ohio high school football player is suing his former district and now-fired coaches after he was forced to eat pizza covered with grease and pepperoni in violation of his religious beliefs.
The federal civil rights suit was filed by the former Canton McKinley High School athlete and his parents and seeks millions of dollars in damages.
According to KTLA, the athlete alleges that his coaches were notified that he doesn’t eat pork or pork residue because he is a Hebrew Isrealite. Nevertheless, his coaches ordered him to eat the pepperoni pizza after the athlete missed an offseason workout, telling him that if he didn’t eat the pizza his spot on the team was at risk.
In a separate defamation suit against the player’s father, the coaches say the player chose to remove the pepperoni and eat the pizza rather than an alternative food. The coaches also said they weren’t aware that eating the pizza was in violation of the player’s religious beliefs.
A lawyer for the coaches said that he has over a dozen statements from eyewitnesses that indicate the family’s allegations are false.
Canton City School District Superintendent Jeff Talbert said in a written statement that the claims in the family’s lawsuit are meritless.
The district suspended several coaches after the allegations arose. The board subsequently voted not to renew coaching contracts for four coaches and deemed three other assistant coaches as ineligible for future coaching positions.
The now 18-year-old athlete has since transferred to another school after facing “threats and ridicule” from teammates and the public because of the situation.