New York's AG says MSG lawyer ban may violate anti-bias laws
NEW YORK - New York's attorney general warned the owner of Madison Square Garden and Radio City Music Hall 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.
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October 2022 when attorney Larry Hutcher, a longtime New York Knicks season ticket holder, was told that his seats had been revoked because his law firm was representing ticket resellers suing MSG.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.
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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.
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."
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - DECEMBER 05: An exterior view of Madison Square Garden prior to the game between the New York Rangers and the St. Louis Blues on December 05, 2022 in New York City. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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.
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - JANUARY 02: A general view of Madison Square Garden during the game between the New York Knicks and the Phoenix Suns at Madison Square Garden on January 02, 2023 in New York City. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agr
An MSG spokesperson said the bill’s sponsors were siding with "attorneys representing ticket scalpers and other money grabbers."
KAREN MATTHEWS, with the Associated Press, helped contribute to this report.