James Dolan defends the use of facial recognition technology to bar entry to Madison Square Garden and Radio City Music Hall

James Dolan defends the use of facial recognition technology at MSG and Radio City Music Hall.Maddie Meyer/Getty

  • MSG Entertainment has faced criticism for using facial recognition technology in its venues.

  • New York’s attorney general and state liquor authority have expressed concern about the legality of the technology

  • Dolan doubled down on the technology in a recent interview and suggested MSG should stop selling alcohol.

James Dolan, CEO of Madison Square Garden and owner of the New York Knicks, has defended the use of facial recognition technology to enforce bans in his concourses after a public outcry.

Dolan spoke to 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 denial-of-entry technology at MSG and Radio City Music Hall, which Dolan’s company, MSG Entertainment, also operates.

During the interview, he also threatened to stop serving alcohol for at least one New York Rangers game after state liquor authorities questioned whether the arena was violating its license by barring people from entering the building.

To make his point, Dolan held up a piece of paper with the email, phone number and photo of Sharif Kabir, CEO of the New York State Liquor Authority, and encouraged viewers who would be upset by MSG’s lack of alcohol to contact Kabir to voice their concerns.

MSG’s use of facial recognition technology to enforce bans has drawn increased attention in recent months. In one high-profile example, in December, a New Jersey attorney claimed the technology identified her as an attorney for a firm involved in a lawsuit against one of MSG Entertainment’s companies and subsequently barred her from a Rockettes performance at Radio City Music Hall with her daughter, according to NBC 4 New York.

MSG confirmed to NBC that the venue had barred the lawyer from the Rockettes’ show and said the policy means any lawyers involved in litigation against any of MSG Entertainment’s companies are barred from events at venues , owned by MSG until the case is resolved.

James said in a statement that the ban could affect lawyers at up to 90 law firms, adding that the technology could violate discrimination or civil rights law.

“MSG Entertainment cannot fight their legal battles in their own arenas,” James wrote in her statement. “Madison Square Garden and Radio City Music Hall are world-renowned venues, and all ticketed patrons must be treated with fairness and respect.”

In December, The New York Times reported that MSG implemented the ban on lawyers last summer and that the database of banned individuals also included fans who had “violated the rules at the company’s facilities.”

In an interview with New York radio station WFAN on Friday, Dolan denied reports of fans claiming they were denied entry after saying things like telling him to sell the team, adding that patrons shouldn’t worry about being banned from the arena unless they become particularly “confrontational”.

Dolan too went back the vague threat to pull alcohol from an upcoming Rangers game, telling WFAN, “There are no plans for that at this point. 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 of the lawyers to come to the arena.

“If your neighbor is judging you, if someone is judging you, right, that’s a confrontation. It’s competitive and it’s fine, people have a right to judge,” Dolan told Fox 5. “But at the same time, if you’re being judged, right, you don’t have to welcome the person into your home, right?”

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