Peter Pattakos, an attorney retained by Wattley, said details of the events were exaggerated and parts are false. His statements were supported by five football players who attended the school board meeting in support of the eight coaches.
Pattakos and the students said the player could have left at any time, adding that Wattley offered the teen chicken nuggets instead of the pizza after the player said he did not eat pork. They said the player chose to take off the pepperoni and eat it.
Pattakos blamed an assistant coach, whom he did not name, for inflaming the situation by reporting an exaggerated version to administrators and the player’s family. Pattakos also blamed the district for conducting a “rushed and incomplete” investigation.
Talbert disputed the claims about the investigation, saying the video gave them enough information to determine that the coaches acted inappropriately.
The teen's attorney, Ed Gilbert, said the player skipped a voluntary workout four days earlier before the incident while nursing a sore shoulder. He was ordered to sit in the middle of the gym and eat an entire pepperoni pizza, Gilbert said. He was allowed to remove the pepperoni and some of the cheese, but pork residue remained, Gilbert said.
The teen would have been subjected to additional drills and his status on the team might have been jeopardized if he had not followed Wattley’s order, Gilbert said.
This story has been corrected to show the player is a Hebrew Israelite, not a Hebrew Israeli.