James Dolan, owner of Madison Square Garden, the NBA’s New York Knicks and NHL’s Rangers, is escalating his feud with state officials over his controversial use of facial recognition technology to bar legal adversaries from company properties.
‘If you’re suing us, we just asking you please don’t come until you’re done with your argument with us – the end,’ Dolan told Good Morning New York in a lengthy interview on Thursday morning. ‘And yes, we’re using facial recognition to enforce that.’
When asked if he would back down from this position, Dolan emphatically responded: ‘Not at all.’
Dolan was speaking to Good Morning New York after state attorney general Letitia James warned MSG that it may be violating anti-bias laws with its practice of barring lawyers from its venues if they work for firms suing the company. James’ interest in the case comes after the State Liquor Authority threatened MSG’s license, prompting Dolan to directly attack the group’s Chief Executive, Sharif Kabir, on Thursday.
New York Knicks owner James Dolan watches against the Milwaukee Bucks during the first half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, November 30, 2022
‘They they’re being extremely aggressive, and they’re saying ”we’re going to take away your liquor license,”’ Dolan said.
‘So I have a little surprise… because they’re basically doing this for publicity, so we’re going to give him some publicity,’ he continued, raising a small flyer featuring an image of Kabir and his contact information.
‘What we’re gonna do right is, we’re going to pick a night, right? Maybe a Rangers game, and we’re going to shut down all the liquor and alcohol in the building now.
‘This isn’t going to bother me because I’ve been sober 29 years. I don’t need the liquor. But instead what we’re gonna do is where we serve liquor, we’re going to put one of these up, which says ”if you would like to drink it a game, please call write Sharif Kabir, chief executive officer or write him an email at this number… and the and tell him to stick to his knitting.”
‘Stop grandstanding and trying to get press.’
Kabir did not immediately respond to DailyMail.com’s request for comment.
Dolan was speaking to Good Morning New York after state attorney general Letitia James (pictured) warned MSG that it may be violating anti-bias laws with its practice of barring lawyers from its venues if they work for firms suing the company
The attorney general’s office said in a letter to MSG Entertainment that the ban — and the company’s use of facial recognition technology to enforce it — may violate anti-discrimination laws and may dissuade lawyers from taking on cases such as sexual harassment or job discrimination claims against the company.
‘MSG Entertainment cannot fight their legal battles in their own arenas,’ James, a Democrat, said in a statement. ‘Madison Square Garden and Radio City Music Hall are world-renowned venues and should treat all patrons who purchased tickets with fairness and respect.’
The lawyer ban came to light in October 2022 when attorney Larry Hutcher, a longtime New York Knicks season ticket holder, was told that his seats had been revoked because his law firm was representing ticket resellers suing MSG. He filed a lawsuit in response.
Since then, other lawyers have come forward with stories about being blocked from concerts, sports events and shows including the Rockettes’ Christmas Spectacular.
The policy potentially affects thousands of lawyers at scores of firms and is being enforced through the use of technology that scans the faces of people entering venues owned by MSG and checks them against a databank of lawyers from banned firms.
The attorney general’s office said research has shown that facial recognition software ‘may be plagued with biases and false positives against people of color and women.’
The attorney general is asking MSG to respond by February 13 and identify efforts the company is making to ensure compliance with applicable anti-discrimination laws.
In a statement, a representative for MSG said the 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.’
The statement continued, ‘Our policy has never applied to attorneys representing plaintiffs who allege sexual harassment or employment discrimination.’
MSG representatives have previously also said it wasn’t ‘unreasonable’ that MSG would want to protect against ‘improper disclosure and discovery’ during active litigation.
New York state lawmakers introduced a bill earlier this week that would prohibit sports venues including Madison Square Garden from refusing entry to perceived enemies of their owners.
An MSG spokesperson said the bill’s sponsors were siding with ‘attorneys representing ticket scalpers and other money grabbers.’
Madison Square Garden security has also been accused of using facial-recognition software to identify and target fans critical of New York Knicks and Rangers owner James Dolan, according to a recent article by a long-time NBA reporter.
Fans speaking to Ethan Strauss, formerly of ESPN and The Athletic, said they were harassed by security after criticizing the 67-year-old sports mogul and son of HBO and Cablevision founder, Charles Dolan. Furthermore, Strauss reports to have spoken to sources claiming the existence of a six-tiered penalty system used to classify critical fans, including celebrities such as director Spike Lee and actor Michael Rapaport.
MSG spokespeople issued a statement to DailyMail.com on December 30, explaining that the company makes no secret of its use of facial-recognition software while rejecting Strauss’ reporting: ‘This is written by an unqualified blogger with multiple inaccuracies and incorrect facts.’
Strauss’ report describes a six-tiered penalty system in which Lee is considered a ‘Code 2,’ meaning he’s monitored throughout the building, but not necessarily approached by security. According to Strauss, Lee would receive more security attention, were it not for a highly publicized spat with guards in 2020, which resulted in negative press for Dolan and the Knicks.
Rapaport, however, has been far more critical of Dolan than Lee, once calling him a ‘s*** stain,’ and is now banned entirely.
‘Rapaport is a [Code] 5,’ one source said. ‘He’s banned. He’s going to be approached by senior leadership. Pretty much, his case would be a director or above.’
And it’s not just security guards who are utilized in the process, according to Strauss. Lawyers are reportedly on hand as well.
‘Now, the way they do it, they have lawyers that attend every event in every venue, not the clubs, just the venues, Beacon Theater, Radio City, and the Arena,’ the source continued. ‘They would have the conversation, too. He would also be approached with a cop, to kind of lock his ass up for trespassing if he did try to put up a fight.’
One fan, a Merrill Lynch financial advisor named Brett Klein (pictured), told Strauss that he has been harassed by MSG security at least 10 separate times since writing ‘sell the team’ on a Facebook page dedicated to Dolan’s band, JD & The Straight Shot
One fan, a Merrill Lynch financial advisor named Brett Klein, told Strauss that he has been harassed by MSG security at least 10 separate times since writing ‘sell the team’ on a Facebook page dedicated to Dolan’s band, JD & The Straight Shot.
Dolan took similar offense in 2019, when a fan was ejected from a JD & The Straight Shot concert in Tennessee for holding a sign reading: ‘Sell the Knicks.’
Dolan also famously barred Knicks legend Charles Oakley from the arena.
Oakley, who already had an acrimonious relationship with Dolan, was arrested on February 8, 2017 after being physically removed from his seat by arena security during a Knicks game against the Los Angeles Clippers.
Lee, a longtime Knicks fan, boycotted the team in 2020 after a separate incident with security, but has since returned to the arena. Other critical fans have also been banned from the arena at various times.
In 2015, Dolan responded to an angry email from a fan by telling him to root for the Nets while accusing him of being an alcoholic.
Then 73-year-old Irving Bierman told The Wall Street Journal at the time that Dolan was wrong to accuse him of alcoholism, even if the Knicks owner was, himself, a recovering alcoholic.
‘Honestly I had no idea [Dolan] had a drinking problem,’ Bierman said. ‘I didn’t care, and the fact that he’s been sober for 21 years, good for him. God bless him…[The] last time I had a drink, I was 18. Now I am 73. I mean, how dare he?’
Frank Isola, who previously covered the team for the Daily News and now appears on ESPN, has pointed out that Dolan only reacts to personal criticism.
‘If you noticed, James Dolan is most passionate about criticism from the media and fans,’ Isola wrote on Twitter in 2019. ‘Criticism of his players and coaches doesn’t rock his boat. The won-loss record is also secondary. Basically said ‘we’re trying’ like he’s running a U10 soccer team.’
Attorney Larry Hutcher (pictured), a Knicks season-ticket holder for nearly a half century, sued Madison Square Garden Entertainment last month, claiming that he and roughly 60 colleagues from his firm were barred from MSG properties after becoming counsel for 24 ticket resellers who in a legal battle MSG. Hutcher claims he later received a letter explaining that he and his colleagues were barred and that his season tickets would be revoked
And recently, those bans have been extended to attorneys involved in litigation against MSG, as well as clients and colleagues of those attorneys.
Attorney Kelly Conlon said she was flagged and asked to leave a Rockettes performance at Radio City Music Hall amid her firm’s legal battle with MSG. Similarly, Hutcher claimed he and 60 colleagues from his firm were barred from the arena after becoming counsel for 24 ticket resellers who have sued the MSG.
In November, New York State Judge Lyle Frank ruled that Hutcher and his colleagues at Davidoff Hutcher & Citron LLP can attend musical and theatrical shows at the Garden, Radio City Music Hall and the Beacon Theatre if they show up with a valid ticket. However, that ruling doesn’t apply to Knicks and Rangers games. Hutcher, who has been a Knicks season-ticket holder for decades, is appealing that aspect of the ruling.
MSG, meanwhile, argues that it has a right to bar lawyers who are suing the company, adding that security would ‘vigorously defend’ that policy. Company spokespeople also vowed to appeal the judge’s decision.
‘It is not unreasonable that while in active litigation, we would want to preserve our right to protect ourselves against improper disclosure and discovery,’ read an MSG statement. ‘That is why we instituted this policy and we have repeatedly made clear that once litigation is resolved, impacted attorneys will be allowed back in our venues.’
Read more at DailyMail.co.uk