A Black high school football coach was placed on administrative leave Wednesday after he reportedly forced a Black “Hebrew Israeli” football player to eat a non-kosher pepperoni pizza as a punishment for missing a scheduled practice:
The Canton City School district also suspended an additional seven other members of the high school football coaching staff.
“I mean it just crosses a line on every level, it’s just wrong,” said the family’s attorney, Edward L. Gilbert.
Coach Wattley Marcus and seven assistant coaches forced a McKinley High School football player to eat a pepperoni pizza after the 17-year-old student-athlete missed a weight lifting session on May 20, according to the family’s attorney Edward L. Gilbert.
What happened four days later as punishment for missing the practice was traumatizing and disrespectful for the McKinley High junior, who is Jewish and keeps Kosher, Gilbert said.
“They order him to go into the gym. He sits in a chair,” said Gilbert. “There is a pizza box on the floor. He picks up the pizza — they tell him he has to, as punishment, eat that whole pizza.”
It is common knowledge among the football community, Gilbert said, that the 17-year-old does not eat pork for religious reasons.
“In his view, the whole pizza was spoiled. The whole pizza was something that could not be ingested,” said Gilbert. “He was ordered to eat that, and if he did not eat it then he would be most likely removed from the team, and the other teammates would have to do extra exercise that day. So you have the whole team around in this gym. You have eight coaches there yelling at him that he has to eat this stuff.”
After the player finished the pizza he was instructed to do further exercises, the attorney said.
“It’s our view that certainly for religious reasons this was inappropriate,” Gilbert said. “It was a dumb thing to do by the coach, and we haven’t been able to understand what was in this coach’s mind at the time.”
“To punish a kid thing like this for his religious beliefs is certainly beyond, it’s ridiculous,” he said.
The student’s family is considering a first amendment lawsuit against the school district, Gilbert said.
Beyond the possibility of a lawsuit, the athlete and his family are trying to navigate the social and emotional fallout from the incident.
“I know that they’re very uncomfortable, and, as you know, these coaches are role models for young men and women,” said Gilbert. “It’s going to affect them for the rest of their lives. We don’t know if he’s gonna go back to the school or not. Most likely he will not.”
Gilbert says this young man is a star athlete, and even though he’s only a junior, he’s already been offered full rides to several colleges. Now his family is unsure if he’ll return to McKinley high or its esteemed football program.
“They are really taking it very difficult because this is a situation where their religion is being disrespected, they are being disrespected and their son in front of the whole team has been disrespected,” Gilbert said.
This story leaves out some very salient facts — first and foremost, this player is obviously Black, not Ashkenazi — which explains the Black attorney, the Black high school, and the Black father interviewed in other coverage:
Oddly, the news reporters refer to the player’s “Hebrew Israeli religious faith” — not Judaism — which would lead us to conclude that the family of this player believes they are “Black Hebrews” — and no rabbi has ever halachically approved their “conversion” — a fact that the school’s attorneys should bring up in any potential lawsuit.
And notice the deafening silence of any accusations of “antisemitism” by the Black attorney — he mentions only a violation of the player’s “first amendment rights.”
There are, of course, “Jews of color” — that is, halachic Jews with Jewish mothers, but apparently that’s not what these “Hebrew Israelis” in this story are.
We have been unable to locate any Black Hebrew congregation or synagogue listed in the Canton, Ohio area.
According to video coverage of the story, the coach allowed the player to pick the pepperoni and cheese off the pizza before he ate it — proving that the coach didn’t know that pepperoni had pork in it and wasn’t kosher — or that dairy and meat cannot be mixed in the same dish — but nevertheless he tried to accommodate him.
Also, excluded from this story — but mentioned in the video news coverage — is the player allegedly was so distraught and traumatized over this hazing that he needed to seek professional psychological help — as if.
Jews of all stripes have to make compromises on their “kosher” diets all the time outside the home — and there is no doubt that if this player has ever eaten in the school cafeteria at this Black public high school, he’s violated his “kosher” rules.
Only a “Black Hebrew” would think that “keeping kosher” simply means avoiding pepperoni pizza — it’s far more complicated than that.
Attorneys for the school would be wise to look into just how strictly this player’s family adheres to kosher rules — for example, at home do they have separate plates and utensils — and even separate pot, pans, and countertops — for preparing dairy and meat? It’s highly doubtful.
Given how quickly the family got an attorney involved would suggest that they are looking to win the ghetto lottery here — with a big payout from the Canton school district — for “emotional duress” and “civil rights violations.”
Israel recently announced that they were deporting dozens of these American “Black Hebrews” who had been living there for decades — because they do not consider them real “Jews”.