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New York AG says MSG lawyer ban may violate anti-bias laws

Fans line up outside Madison Square Garden before an NBA basketball game between the New York Knicks and the Golden State Warriors in New York on Feb. 23, 2021. (AP Photo/Brittainy Newman, File)

Fans line up outside Madison Square Garden before an NBA basketball game between the New York Knicks and the Golden State Warriors in New York on Feb. 23, 2021. (AP Photo/Brittainy Newman, File)

New York’s attorney general warned the owner of Madison Square Garden and Radio City Music Hall on Wednesday 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,” Attorney General Letitia 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October 2022 when attorney Larry Hutcher, a longtime New York Knicks season ticket holder was told that his seats had been revoked because his law firm was representing ticket resellers suing MSG.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 Feb. 13 and identify efforts the company is making to ensure compliance with applicable anti-discrimination laws.

A request for comment was sent to a spokesperson for MSG on Wednesday.

MSG representatives have defended the ban, saying in a statement in November, “It is not unreasonable that while in active litigation, we would want to preserve our right to protect ourselves against improper disclosure and discovery.”

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.”

Karen Matthews reports for The Associated Press.


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