FAIRLAWN, Ohio (WJW) — The attorney for two of the seven coaches fired over the pizza incident in May spoke to the public on Tuesday.
Peter Pattakos, attorney for head coach Marcus Wattley and assistant coach Tyler Thatcher, insisted the coaches get their due process in this investigation.
He said a full investigation was not started before the coaches were fired and only three athletes were interviewed.
The incident happened on May 24 after a junior missed practice with an injury.
According to the family’s attorney, Wattley made the teen sit in the middle of the gym and eat a whole pizza. If he didn’t, his surrounding teammates would have to run extra drills. The attorney said Wattley also threatened to kick him off the team.
The boy repeatedly told the coach he did not eat pork because he belongs to the Hebrew Israeli faith, which strictly forbids eating pork or pork residue. Eventually, he was allowed to pick off the pepperoni, but there was clearly still grease on the pizza. After finishing, the teen was ordered to do extra drills outside, according to the attorney.
“The child is devastated due to consuming the pork grease pizza and being degraded in front of the entire team,” the family’s attorney said in a news release on June 1.
Wattley said during the news conference, that in his 19 years of coaching he’s never been criticized for his style of discipline but has been commended for it.
Canton City Schools originally suspended seven members of the high school football coaching staff, including the head coach, while conducting an investigation into the incident.
During a meeting on June 3, the Canton school board decided to fire Wattley, along with six assistant McKinley High School football coaches.
Pattakos is calling for the school to let the coaches come back to McKinley.
He said there are false narratives going around that they forced the athlete to eat pork, but corrected it by saying they offered him chicken instead.
He also said that the coaches are criticized for the harsh discipline the gave out for the athlete missing a “voluntary practice,” but noted that the coaches said they texted the athlete that day but didn’t get a response. The coaches said they text the players everyday to ask how they are, if they are eating and if they are safe. It’s their coaching style.
The coaches also report that some of the players are asking for the coaching staff to come back.