High School Football Player Brings Multi-Million Dollar Lawsuit Against School and Coaches, Claims They Forced Him to Eat Pepperoni Pizza

Surveillance footage shows a student sitting at the center of a gymnasium while others line the room’s perimeter.

A former member of the Canton City High School football team in Ohio has sued his school and former coaches over alleged “anti-Semitic” actions of forcing him to eat a pizza covered with pepperoni grease. The African American high school senior, known in court documents as “K.W.” or “Junior” claims that his coaches knew he was a member of the Hebrew-Israelite religious faith and did not eat pork products on that basis, but forced him to eat an entire pepperoni pizza as a punishment for missing a workout.

K.W. and his parents filed a federal civil rights lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Ohio last week, raising claims for over $12 million in damages from the district and the former coaching staff. According to the complaint, in May 2021, K.W. missed a weight-lifting workout due to a slight shoulder injury. When he failed to complete the mandatory workout, K.W. was forced to sit in the middle of a gymnasium and consume an entire pepperoni pizza while the rest of the team carried heavy weights around the perimeter of the room. The student asserts that at the time of the incident, he had been a member of the football team for over two years, that he was known to be a member of the Hebrew-Israelite religious faith, and that his dietary restrictions were well-known by coaching staff.

Per the complaint, after being instructed to eat the pizza, the student:

[O]bjected and reminded Defendants’ Employees that he does not eat pork, due to his religious beliefs.

39. In fact, Junior kicked the pizza box away from him, refusing to touch the pork pepperoni pizza (this incident was caught by security footage).

40. Defendants’ Employees retrieved the pizza box and again ordered Junior to eat the pork pepperoni pizza, in violation of his religion.

41. Junior stated a minimum of ten times that he did not eat pork or pork residue.

42. At this point, Defendants’ Employees then stated that Junior could remove the pork pepperoni slices; however, the residue was clearly still covering the pizza and Junior continued to object.

43. Defendants’ Employees ordered Junior to eat the balance of the pizza or stated that his tenure on the Canton McKinley Football Team would be in jeopardy.

44. Meanwhile, Junior’s teammates were forced by Defendants’ Employees to circle the gym, perform strength exercises with the 40-pound weights and practice running/sprinting drills and were not allowed to stop until Junior finished the entire pizza.

45. Junior was subject to threats from his teammates if he did not eat the pizza quickly (again, these facts can be verified by security footage).

46. Junior, against his religious beliefs, was forced to eat the pork grease pizza.