The Madison Square Garden Entertainment Corporation’s CEO has increased the use of facial recognition at its venues to prevent lawyers suing the group from attending events.
MSG Executive Chairman and CEO James Dolan told Fox 5 on Thursday that Madison Square Garden is a private company that has the right to decide who is allowed to enter its venues for events.
“At Madison Square Garden, if you’re suing us, all we ask is that you don’t come until you’ve finished your argument with us,” he said. “And, yes, we are enforcing that with facial recognition.”
His remarks come after New York Attorney General Letitia James sent a letter to MSG Entertainment on Wednesday requesting information about the company’s use of facial recognition technology to prevent legitimate ticketholders from entering venues. The attorney general’s office reviewed reports that MSG Entertainment used facial recognition to identify and deny entry to multiple lawyers affiliated with law firms involved in ongoing litigation with the company, according to the letter. According to the letter, the policy may have affected thousands of attorneys from approximately 90 law firms, and the ban includes those with season tickets.
The attorney general’s letter expressed concern that barring people from accessing venues due to ongoing litigation may violate local, state, and federal human rights laws, including retaliation laws. The letter also questions whether MSG Entertainment’s facial recognition software is reliable and what safeguards are in place to prevent bias and discrimination.
“MSG Entertainment cannot fight their legal battles in their own arenas,” James stated in a press release. Madison Square Garden and Radio City Music Hall are world-renowned venues that should treat all ticket holders fairly and respectfully. Anyone who has purchased a ticket to an event should not be concerned that they will be denied entry based on their appearance, and we are urging MSG Entertainment to change this policy.”
MSG Entertainment owns and operates Madison Square Garden, Radio City Music Hall, the Hulu Theater, and the Beacon Theatre in New York. The New York Knicks, Rangers, professional boxing, and college basketball teams all play at Madison Square Garden.
“To be clear, our policy does not unlawfully prohibit anyone from entering our venues, and it is not our intent to discourage attorneys from representing plaintiffs in litigation against us,” an MSG spokesperson said in a statement Thursday. We are only excluding a small number of lawyers during active litigation.”
“Most importantly,” the spokesperson added, “to even suggest anyone is being excluded based on the protected classes identified in state and federal civil rights laws is ludicrous. Our policy has never applied to attorneys who represent plaintiffs alleging sexual harassment or workplace discrimination.”
In an interview with Fox 5 on Thursday, Dolan stated that once the attorneys suing MSG have completed their litigation, they will be welcomed back to the venues. “If your next-door neighbor sues you, or if someone sues you, that’s confrontational. It’s adversarial, and that’s fine; people can sue,” he said. “However, if you’re being sued, you don’t have to welcome the person into your home, right?”
Dolan defended the use of facial recognition technology, claiming that it is useful for security and that Madison Square Garden is one of the safest venues in the country. “Basically, whenever you go out in public, you’re on camera,” he explained. “Believe me, when you walk down the street, you’re being recorded,