ARLINGTON, Texas — An Arlington teen said his hair prevented him from getting a job at Six Flags.
Brandon Kobe Pierce, 16, said he grew up going to Six Flags in Arlington, not far from his home. When he decided he wanted to get his first real job, he thought it would be a good place to work. He said his grandfather had worked there decades before.
"We encouraged him to go to Six Flags," said Connie Pierce, Kobe's mom.
Kobe got dressed in slacks and a button-down shirt for an interview at the amusement park, but he said that it was another part of his appearance that became an issue. He has worn a braid his entire life that stretches just past his shoulders, and he said he was told that would not be OK for a Six Flags employee.
"They pulled me aside at the end of it and said, 'You would have to cut your hair or we can't hire you at Six Flags,'" Pierce said.
He said he left feeling dejected, unwilling to cut his hair that he considers part of his identity. He said he asked if there were any other options, but he said he was told that while female employees can put long hair in a bun, that is not a choice for men.
"If girls are able to pull their hair back and have it long, then guys shouldn't have to cut their hair," Kobe said.
Kobe and his mom decided to speak out after seeing a viral post about a Fort Worth teen who had a similar story, being turned down from a job at the park because of his hair.
In a statement to WFAA, Six Flags said, "We maintain a company-wide grooming code that includes standard uniforms for front-line team members, limitations on tattoos, piercings, beards and no extreme hairstyles such as drastic variations in hair color, locks, or partially shaven heads. We do permit braids and we also recognize that some team members may request accommodations to our grooming code due to religious, cultural or medical reasons. We work with those team members on a case-by-case basis to address his or her individual needs and we pride ourselves on a diverse workforce."
There have been signs of a wider cultural change. In December, there was a national conversation after a high school wrestler was forced to cut his hair to compete. And last month, New York City enacted new rules to prohibit discrimination based on hairstyle, with the idea that it targets race.
"I think they are really missing out on a lot of young males that are trying to work the right way, and they won't even give them the opportunity," Connie Pierce said.
Pierce is still looking for a job and hopes Six Flags might adapt or reconsider because his hair is part of him.
"If girls can have it, guys should be able to have it, too," Pierce said.