‘Petty And Vindictive Behavior’: Madison Square Garden CEO James Dolan Defends Kicking Out Lawyers Who Work For Firms Involved With Lawsuits Against The Venue

James Dolan, the CEO of Madison Square Garden Entertainment (MSG) took his growing chorus of critics to task in an interview with FOX 5’s Good Day New York on Thursday.

Paul Bereswill / Contributor

James Dolan of Madison Square Garden Entertainment.

The company has a policy that doesn’t allow lawyers who work for firms involved with legal battles with MSG to attend events at MSG venues such as Madison Square Garden, Radio City Music Hall, and the Beacon Theatre. The policy recently came under fire after using facial recognition to identify (and then remove) such a lawyer in December. It’s possible the policy has affected lawyers at more than 90 firms, New York’s attorney general Letitia James’ office has said.

Related: A Girl Scout Mom and Lawyer Was Denied Entry to Rockettes Show After Being Recognized By Facial Recognition Tech

“If somebody sues you, that’s confrontational… And it’s fine. People are allowed to sue, right? But at the same time, if you’re being sued, you don’t have to welcome the person into your home,” Dolan told Fox anchor Rosanna Scotto.

Dolan went on the show in the wake of a bill introduced in the state legislature related to this policy and an inquiry from James’ office. The New York’s State Liquor Authority, which regulates the sale of alcohol is also investigating the company for a potential violation of a law that requires people who have liquor licenses to be open to the general public, per Gothamist.

MSG is a private venue but receives an estimated $43 million a year through a tax break.

In September 2022, brokers who hold season tickets to the Knicks and New York Rangers sports teams sued MSG for not renewing their season tickets, per the New York Post. The group claimed MSG used to solicit their business to boost profits, but stopped after the Knicks became more popular.

In a filing in October, it was noted that MSG had barred the attorneys from the firm representing the resellers, Davidoff Hutcher & Citron, from entering any of its venues, per the Post.

Later in December, the policy received more public attention after Kelly Conlon, an attorney at a law firm in New Jersey, Davis, Saperstein, and Salomon, went to a show with her daughter at Radio City Music Hall — and was not allowed in.

Facial recognition technology had identified her as a lawyer with the New Jersey firm, which is involved in a personal injury case with MSG. She didn’t work on the case or even in New York, she previously told NBC, calling the experience “mortifying.”

On Fox 4, Dolan said “there’s no way to tell which attorneys are working on the case and which aren’t,” and that it’s not bothering fans.

He also said in the interview that the company would answer questions from James’ office, which has raised the question of the policy running afoul of anti-discrimination laws and he dismissed the State Liquor Authority’s (SLA) concerns.

The SLA “is way over their skis,” he said, using an expression that often means someone is acting too quickly.

Dolan further threatened to pick a day to not sell alcohol and encourage fans instead to contact the head of the SLA. He also the bill that would, in effect, prevent the company from blocking its list of lawyers.

“Why don’t we do something about quality of life in New York and stop worrying about the attorneys who are defending ticket scalpers?” Dolan said.

Brad Hoylman-Sigal, a New York state senator who has been involved with the MSG-aimed bill, told Gothamist the interview was the “petty and vindictive behavior that we’ve all come to expect from Dolan.”

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Gabrielle Bienasz