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Thousands sign petition to reinstate Western Hills HS football coach

Friday's game cancelled by CPS
Posted at 2:26 PM, Sep 10, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-10 14:33:15-04

CINCINNATI — The Western Hills/Dater High School football team will not play tonight as an investigation continues into an alleged hazing incident.

Thousands have signed a petition asking Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS) to change how the district is handling the case, adding they want head coach Armand Tatum to be reinstated.

Petitioners argue Tatum is not to blame for any hazing among Western Hills/Dater football players.

“He's a role model for all the young kids here,” said Antonio Willis, a former player at the school. “For all the men that don't really have fathers in their lives, that's what he gives to us.”

Willis signed the petition after CPS relieved Tatum of his duties. This was after a video surfaced online showing what police believe may be Western Hills/Dater football players holding down a teammate and pulling his clothes off as he struggles to escape.

In addition to removing the coach, the district put the football team on pause. Students protested and the petition is still growing in popularity.

“(Tatum) trusted his team with the years of advice he has given, to make the right decisions when he's not looking … like any parent, that's all you can do,” the petition reads.

“He teaches these players what's right from wrong,” Willis said.

Students and parents are working to schedule a meeting with the board of CPS to present the petition. They said they do not want to undermine the seriousness of the incident.

"Toxic behaviors and normalization of horrible events such as these is exactly what Coach Tatum has worked so intensely to avoid," the petition reads.

“I have talked to a couple of (the players) and they do regret what happened,” Willis said.

CPS had no comment on the petition. If the district changes course, it could set a standard for who is responsible.

Police are still investigating to see if criminal charges apply.

So far, no date has been set for a school board meeting with petition organizers.