- MSG Entertainment is facing criticism for its use of facial recognition to enforce bans at its venues.
- New York AG Letitia James and the state liquor authority expressed concern about the technology’s legality.
- Dolan doubled down on the technology in a recent interview, making a vague threat to stop selling alcohol at MSG.
James Dolan, CEO of Madison Square Garden and owner of the New York Knicks, is defending the use of facial recognition technology to enforce bans in his arenas after a public outcry.
Dolan spoke to Fox 5 New York Thursday about the system, a day after New York Attorney General Letitia James issued a statement questioning the use of the technology to deny entry to MSG and Radio City Music Hall, which is also operated by Dolan’s company. MSG Entertainment.
During the interview, he also threatened to stop serving alcohol in at least one New York Rangers game after the game state liquor the authority questioned whether the arena was violating its license by banning people from entering the building.
To emphasize his point, Dolan held up a piece of paper with the email, phone number and photo of Sharif Kabir, executive director of the New York State Liquor Authority, and urged viewers who would be upset by the lack of alcohol at MSG to contact Kabir to voice their concerns.
MSG’s use of facial recognition technology to enforce bans has received increased scrutiny in recent months. In a high-profile example, a New Jersey attorney claimed in December that the technology identified her as an attorney for a firm involved in litigation against one of MSG Entertainment’s companies, then prevented her from attending a Rockettes performance at Radio City Music Hall with her daughter, according to NBC 4 New York.
MSG confirmed to NBC that the lawyer was kept out of the Rockettes show, saying the policy meant that all lawyers involved in lawsuits against any of MSG Entertainment’s companies are barred from attending events at MSG-owned venues until the case is resolved.
Attorney General James said in his statement that the ban could affect lawyers at up to 90 law firms, adding that the technology could violate discrimination or civil rights laws.
“MSG Entertainment cannot fight its legal battles in its own arenas,” Attorney General James wrote in his statement. “Madison Square Garden and Radio City Music Hall are world-renowned venues and should treat all ticketed guests with fairness and respect.”
In December, the New York Times reported that the ban on lawyers was passed last summer, and that the database of banned faces also includes fans who had “violated rules at the company’s venues.”
In an interview with New York City radio station WFAN on Friday, Dolan denied that reports of fans claiming they were denied entry after saying things like telling him to sell the team, adding guests shouldn’t worry about being banned from the arena unless they get particularly “confrontational”.
Dolan too went back the vague threat to pull alcohol from an upcoming Rangers game, telling WFAN “There are no plans at this time to do that. Your beer is safe.”
Dolan told Fox 5 that his organization will comply and provide James’ office with all the information they need to determine whether the use of facial recognition could be discriminatory, but doubled down on his belief that he was justified in banning the lawyers from the arena.
“If your neighbor sues you, if somebody sues you, right, it’s confrontational. It’s adversarial and that’s fine, people are allowed to sue,” Dolan told Fox 5. “But at the same time, if you’re being sued, right, you don’t have to welcome the person into your home, right?”