A new state law would make it illegal for controversial Madison Square Garden CEO James Dolan to keep perceived foes out of sporting events like Knicks and Rangers games, say the bill’s backers.
They plan to introduce the law on Monday, amid Dolan’s crackdown on lawyers who work for firms involved in suits against MSG Entertainment.
“New Yorkers are outraged by Madison Square Garden booting fans from their venue simply because they’re perceived as corporate enemies of James Dolan,” the bill’s sponsor, state Sen. Brad Hoylman-Sigal, told the Daily News.
“This is a straightforward, simple fix to the New York State civil rights law that would hopefully prevent fans from being denied entry simply because they work for a law firm that may have a client in litigation against Madison Square Garden Entertainment,” he added.
Recent months have seen lawyers kicked out of the Garden and Radio City Music Hall, which Dolan also runs, after they were identified by facial-recognition technology.
An employment lawyer is suing MSG Entertainment, citing a 1941 law that prohibits “wrongful refusal of admission” of customers with a valid ticket to “places of public entertainment or amusement.”
The new bill from Hoylman-Sigal, state Sen. Liz Krueger and Assemblyman Tony Simone, all Manhattan Democrats, would expand the old law to cover sporting events.
Earlier this month, MSG staff kicked Benjamin Pinczewski out of a Rangers game after he was detected by facial recognition tech. Like two others recently kicked out of the Garden and a woman ejected from Radio City Music Hall, Pinczewski is employed by a law firm involved in litigation against MSG, though he’s not personally working on the case.
MSG has insisted the policy is legal.
“While we understand this policy is disappointing to some, we cannot ignore the fact that litigation creates an inherently adversarial environment,” it previously told The News. “All impacted attorneys were notified of the policy.”
Along with issues of fairness, MSG’s use of facial-recognition technology has raised alarm among privacy advocates.
Hoylman-Sigal said he’s working on legislation to address the latter concern.
“Studies show biometric technology discriminates against people of color and LGBTQ people — transgender individuals, in particular,” he said. “It’s flawed.
“Secondly, it’s such an invasion of one’s privacy and there are growing concerns about what happens to that data after it’s been collected by private entities like Madison Square Garden,” the senator added.
Lawyer Ken Halperin — whose firm Wingate, Russotti, Shapiro, Moses & Halperin was among those notified by MSG Entertainment that employees wouldn’t be allowed to attend its events — welcomed the new bill.
“It’s dangerous for any one individual to ban a class of people who are essentially doing their job representing citizens of the state and potentially other people,” he said. “What comes next? Who’s going to be banned from where next?”
Halperin, a Knicks and Rangers fan, said he hasn’t been to any games since his firm was notified of the ban over the holidays.
“Facial recognition should not be used as a weapon against your enemies,” he said. “It should be used to identify criminals, perhaps terrorists — not people who do not agree with you.”
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