James Dolan and Madison Square Garden may actually have to answer for their creepy and vindictive use of facial-recognition technology now.
New York Attorney General Letitia James has called MSG on the carpet. Her office published a letter Wednesday that requests MSG provide information on its company policy barring “adversarial” attorneys from its venues.
From the letter:
The New York State Office of the Attorney General (OAG) has reviewed reports alleging that Madison Square Garden Entertainment Corp. and its affiliates (collectively, the “Company”), have used facial recognition software to forbid all lawyers in all law firms representing clients engaged in any litigation against the Company from entering the Company’s venues in New York, including the use of any season tickets (the “Policy”). Reports indicate that approximately 90 law firms are impacted by the Company’s Policy, constituting thousands of lawyers.
We write to raise concerns that the Policy may violate the New York Civil Rights Law and other city, state, and federal laws prohibiting discrimination and retaliation for engaging in protected activity. Such practices certainly run counter to the spirit and purpose of such laws, and laws promoting equal access to the courts: forbidding entry to lawyers representing clients who have engaged in litigation against the Company may dissuade such lawyers from taking on legitimate cases, including sexual harassment or employment discrimination claims. … And attempts to dissuade individuals from filing discrimination complaints or encouraging those in active litigation to drop their lawsuits so they may access popular entertainment events at the Company’s venues may violate state and city laws prohibiting retaliation. … Lastly, research suggests that the Company’s use of facial recognition software may be plagued with biases and false positives against people of color and women.
MSG Entertainment said in a statement: “To be clear, our policy does not unlawfully prohibit anyone from entering our venues and it is not our intent to dissuade attorneys from representing plaintiffs in litigation against us. We are merely excluding a small percentage of lawyers only during active litigation. Most importantly, 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 representing plaintiffs who allege sexual harassment or employment discrimination.”
It’s been a month since The Post reported how MSG booted a Girl Scout chaperone from Radio City Music Hall last November, separating her from her 9-year-old daughter at a Rockettes show. The woman is an attorney at a law firm currently involved in litigation against MSG and/or its holdings. But she his not involved in the case or even licensed to practice law in New York state. And while the attorney ban was known prior to that incident, the sensational nature of the anecdote has clearly resonated. So has a follow-up report by longtime NBA reporter Ethan Sherwood Strauss on Substack that detailed even more chilling and ridiculous alleged uses of facial-recognition by MSG. And now people with subpoena power are rattling the cage.
As we have written previously: NBA commissioner Adam Silver and NHL commissioner Gary Bettman should have reigned Dolan’s many despotic behaviors and tendencies in long ago. They predictably did not because Dolan is one of their bosses. So now it is up to Mayor Eric Adams, Gov. Kathy Hochul and James. And while it is very early, it looks like James cares enough to take the first step toward action.
James Kratch can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @jameskratch.