News / Halifax

Halifax trans football player says 'media attention' a reason for McDonald's firing

Kenny Cooley says he was caught off guard over decision after making headlines for suiting up with Halifax West Warriors.

Kenny Cooley feels he was wrongfully dismissed from McDonald's in Bedford.

Jeff Harper/Metro

Kenny Cooley feels he was wrongfully dismissed from McDonald's in Bedford.

A Halifax high school football player who made headlines around North America for being the first trans player on his team says he was let go from McDonald’s, partly due to that media attention.

Kenny Cooley, a 17-year-old student at Halifax West, said two days after his story first appeared in Metro on Sept. 12 he was called into the McDonald’s on the Bedford Highway where he’d worked since April.

Cooley said he was told that his employment was being terminated “one because of the media, and two because we had some schedule mishaps,” he said during an interview Wednesday.

When asked about Cooley’s dismissal on Wednesday, a McDonald’s spokesperson did not confirm he had been let go from that Bedford location but forwarded an emailed statement from the owner operator, Bob Smith.

Smith said he was “shocked by these allegations as they are simply not true.

The McDonald's on the Bedford Highway is shown on Wednesday evening.

Jeff Harper/Metro

The McDonald's on the Bedford Highway is shown on Wednesday evening.

“I have been a local business owner for more than 25 years and I pride myself on operating an open and diverse workplace. At my restaurants, inclusion has always been an important part of my work culture. Our philosophy has always been to ‘bring your whole self to work.’ By doing so, we encourage an open and accepting workplace that allows everyone to contribute their personal best,” Smith’s statement said.

After his story was first reported by Metro, Cooley had his story picked up by international outlets like ABC and The Washington Post, as well as national ones like CTV National and The Canadian Press, and gotten positive feedback since then, he said.

Kevin Cooley of the Halifax West Warriors football team poses prior to his first game with the team last week.

Jeff Harper/Metro

Kevin Cooley of the Halifax West Warriors football team poses prior to his first game with the team last week.

It “wasn’t a good feeling” to be let go for those two reasons last Wednesday, Cooley said.

“It was like a really uncomfortable setting …  it kind of made me feel really bad,” he added.

As for the scheduling mishap, Cooley said he had thought it was resolved when it happened two weeks ago. It revolved around Cooley having a schedule that read a different shift time than the one his McDonald’s manager had.

Metro went to the Bedford store on Wednesday evening and asked to speak to the restaurant manager, but was told by a staff member she was “unavailable” to speak, but they were working on a statement with their lawyers.

Soon afterwards Metro received the statement from Bob Smith.

Cooley said his mother is thinking of taking his case to the Labour Board to see whether it qualifies as wrongful dismissal, and he agrees.

It’s not that he wants money or compensation per se, Cooley said, but would like an apology from the store and McDonald’s.

“It’s not right,” Cooley said.

With files from Philip Croucher