CANTON, Ohio — There are new developments in the scandal that once crippled the Canton McKinley football team. A federal judge in U.S. District Court dismissed seven former football coaches from a lawsuit filed by a former football player and his family, citing insufficient evidence to support allegations that the player was forced to eat food against his religion.
The lawsuit also names Canton City Schools as a defendant.
In an 11-page decision, Judge John Adams wrote there would be no ruling against the coaches "merely because it (the court) may not believe the plaintiff's factual allegations." Allegations that the court says "lumped all the former coaches together without distinguishing the allegations against each individual."
In June of last year, former McKinley head coach Marcus Wattley and six of his assistant coaches were fired by Canton City Schools following an investigation into misconduct. Superintendent Jeff Talbert called the actions of the coaches "inappropriate, demeaning, and divisive."
"It's (the dismissal) not going to fix the damage that has been done," said Peter Pattakos, the attorney representing the coaches. "It's not going to get the coaches their jobs back. It is a substantial piece of justice for the coaches that they are very grateful for."
Video showed the moments the player claims the coaches forced him to eat a pork-based pepperoni pizza after showing up later to a non-mandatory practice. Eating pork violated the player's Hebrew Israelite faith.
Talbert said it was the surveillance video that gave him the information he needed to make his recommendation to fire Wattley and his assistants. "What is on that video shows that what happened on May 24 is an ill-mannered attempt to instill accountability and discipline in our students," he said when firing the coaches.
Ed Gilbert, the attorney representing the player and his family, told 3News in a statement: "We feel the court made a clear error here. We feel the coaches knew what they did and the judge wanted us to be specific. But of course, we don't know they acted as a group. We feel that he overreacted."
Gilbert says his team, the player, and his family are now determining if they will appeal the dismissal. Meanwhile, there is still pending litigation in the case the coaches filed against the player, his family, and Canton City Schools.
You can read Judge Adams' dismissal ruling below:
- Canton McKinley student allegedly forced to eat pepperoni pizza files a lawsuit against Canton City Schools in U.S. District Court
- Attorney: Fired Canton McKinley head football coach Marcus Wattley never forced player to eat pork
- Canton McKinley football coaches fired for pizza incident file defamation suit
- Canton McKinley football coach Marcus Wattley, 6 assistants fired following misconduct investigation