State Attorney General Letitia James called a foul on Madison Square Garden Wednesday over the sports arena’s alleged use of facial recognition technology to prevent their so-called enemies from entering their venues.
James sent a letter to Madison Square Garden Entertainment Corp. on Jan. 25 questioning the company’s reported practice of prohibiting certain ticket holders from entering its venues.
The company has reportedly used facial recognition technology to identify and deny entry to lawyers affiliated with law firms representing clients in litigation against it.
MSG Entertainment’s policy, according to James, targets approximately 90 law firms and impacts thousands of attorneys. The corporation owns and operates several venues in New York, including Radio City Musical Hall, the Hulu Theater, the Beacon Theatre and, of course, Madison Square Garden.
James, in the letter, warns MSG Entertainment that such a practice of stopping legitimate ticket holders from access may be a violation of local, state and federal human rights laws, including laws prohibiting retaliation.
“MSG Entertainment cannot fight their legal battles in their own arenas,” James 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.”
She also questioned the reliability of the facial recognition software and asks what is being done to avoid bias and discrimination.
James said the policy to ban certain attorneys may be a violation of civil rights and human rights law since it might dissuade lawyers from taking on legitimate cases against the company—including sexual harassment or employment discrimination cases—in order to avoid the alleged ban.
She is calling on MSG Entertainment to report back to her office the steps it is taking to comply with New York’s laws and what it is doing to ensure the technology is not leading to discrimination. The company, according to letter, has until Feb. 13 to respond.
MSG Entertainment said in a statement that its policy to exclude certain lawyers is not a breach of the law. It also said that it was not violating civil rights laws.
“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,” according to an MSG Entertainment spokesperson. “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.”
This story was updated at 9:10 a.m. on Jan. 26 to include comment received from MSG Entertainment.