New Lawsuit filed in Canton McKinley football ‘pizzagate’

Head football coach, Marcus Wattley has filed a wrongful termination lawsuit, saying he had no...
Head football coach, Marcus Wattley has filed a wrongful termination lawsuit, saying he had no idea a Canton McKinley player was Hebrew-Israelite student, who could not eat pepperoni pizza as a punishment.(WOIO)
Published: May. 30, 2023 at 11:02 AM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) -A new lawsuit has been filed on behalf of the former Canton McKinley football coaches who were suspended and fired over a pizza eating incident with a player in May of 2021.

The new suit goes after the player, his family, their attorney, the school and the city of Canton for wrongful termination, that the suit says has left the former head coach, Marcus Wattley, unable to find another job.

This all stems from a punishment directed at then 17-year-old Khalil Walker.

The lawsuit claims Walker had been underperforming as a player and the coaches used a teaching tool known as the “royal treatment,” where a player has to eat in the center of the gym while his teammates continue a workout.

The coaches claim they never knew of Walker’s religious beliefs as a Hebrew-Israelite and that eating the piece of pepperoni, or pork, was against his religion.

The lawsuit claims he was even offered chicken nuggets as a substitute.

According to court filings Walker at a single piece after picking of the cheese and the pepperoni.

The lawsuit says it was the family’s attorney, Ed Gilbert who inflamed the situation.

“Ed Gilbert, who shortly threatened litigation against the district based on false and salacious accusations that the coaches not only forced KW (Khalil Walker) to eat pepperoni with the intent to harm him, but did so with the knowledge that eating pork was against KW’s alleged Hebrew Israelite religion,” the lawsuit says. “Gilbert knew that these accusations were false, and indeed knew as KW admitted at a deposition that the coaches had no reason to know that KW practiced any religion at all let alone the one that prohibited the consumption of pork.”

Cleveland 19 contacted Ed Gilbert who represents Walker, and is himself being sued, he provided the following statement’

“After my client’s first lawsuit which was filed on December 29, 2021, numerous depositions were taken, the last of which was Wednesday April 5, 2023 of Mr. Wattley.

It is now abundantly clear that the School District and Coaches violated the Hazing Statute.

Therefore, on Tuesday May 23, 2023, my client filed the appropriate claims alleging hazing. Our claims speak for themselves.

It appears that in retaliation, on the very next day, Wednesday May 24, 2023, the Coaches re-filed their bogus claim of defamation.

You may be assured that our hazing complaint will prevail.”