James Dolan defends use of facial recognition technology to ban entry into Madison Square Garden and Radio City Music Hall
- 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 tech’s legality.
- Dolan doubled down on the tech in a recent interview and made a vague threat to stop selling alcohol at MSG.
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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 venues after public outcry.
Dolan spoke with Fox 5 New York on Thursday about the system, one day after New York Attorney General Letitia James released a statement questioning the use of the technology to deny entry into 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 for at least one New York Rangers game after the state liquor authority questioned whether the arena violated its license by prohibiting people from entering the building.
To emphasize his point, Dolan held up a piece of paper with the email, phone number, and a photo of Sharif Kabir, CEO of the New York State Liquor Authority, and encouraged viewers who would be upset by a lack of alcohol at MSG to contact Kabir to voice their concerns.
MSG’s use of facial recognition technology to enforce bans has garnered increased scrutiny in recent months. In one high-profile example, a New Jersey attorney in December claimed the technology identified her as a lawyer for a firm involved in litigation against one of MSG Entertainment’s companies, and subsequently barred her from entering a Rockettes performance at Radio City Music Hall with her daughter, according to NBC 4 New York.
MSG confirmed to NBC the attorney was held out of the Rockettes show, and said the policy meant any lawyers involved in litigation against any of MSG Entertainment’s companies are banned from attending events at MSG-owned venues until the case is resolved.
Attorney General James said in her statement that the ban could affect lawyers at up to 90 law firms, adding the technology may violate discrimination or civil rights law.
“MSG Entertainment cannot fight their legal battles in their own arenas,” Attorney General James wrote in her 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.”
In December, the New York Times reported that the ban on attorneys was enacted last summer, and that the database of banned faces also includes fans who had “broken rules at the company’s venues.”
In an interview with New York City radio station WFAN on Friday, Dolan denied the reports of fans claiming they were denied entry after saying things like telling him to sell the team, adding patrons should not be concerned about being banned from the arena unless they become particularly “confrontational.”
Dolan also walked back the vague threat of pulling alcohol from an upcoming Rangers game, telling WFAN “There are no plans at this point to do that. Your beer is safe.”
Dolan told Fox 5 that his organization will comply and give James’ office any 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 next door neighbor sues you, if somebody sues you, right, that’s confrontational. It’s adversarial and it’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?”