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‘The Garden Has to Defend Itself’: MSG Chief James Dolan Hits Back at Facial Recognition Criticism

todayJanuary 26, 2023

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Madison Square Garden Entertainment chief executive James Dolan defended the use of facial recognition technology to bar entry to his company’s namesake venue to a handful of individuals on Thursday. In a televised interview on FOX 5 New York, Dolan also said he’s considering shutting down alcohol sales for a night at the Garden in response to lawmakers’ calls for the venue’s liquor license.

“Instead (of serving alcohol), where we serve liquor, we are going to put one of these up, which says, ‘If you would like to drink again, please call Sharif Kabir, chief executive officer’ … and tell him to stick to his knitting,” Dolan said, holding up a poster with the picture of the head of New York’s state liquor authority.

In defense of the Garden’s policy barring entry to a group of lawyers who work for a firm currently engaged in legal matters against Dolan’s company, he said, “If you’re suing us, we’re just asking you please don’t come until you’re done with your argument with us, and yes we’re using facial recognition to enforce that.”


MSG has been under scrutiny for blocking entry to the lawyers, and in recent weeks, some New York legislators have called for an investigation into whether the policy is in violation of its liquor license. On Wednesday, the New York State Attorney General Letitia James requested the company disclose how they are using the technology, citing media reports that about 90 law firms and thousands of lawyers are affected by the policy.

Lawmakers including New York State Senator Liz Kruger expressed concerns that MSG appears to be using the technology in “discriminatory and retaliatory” ways, and New York State Senator Brad Hoylman-Sigal introduced a bill this week that would ammend an existing state law to add “sporting events” to the list of public entertainment places that cannot bar entry to people with valid tickets.

Dolan was steadfast in his defense of the ban and the use of facial recognition technology at his venues, which also include Radio City Music Hall and The Sphere, currently under construction in Las Vegas.

Dolan called the proposed bill illegal, and when asked if his company would back down in enforcing these policies, he said, “Not at all.”

“The Garden has to defend itself,” he said.

In a letter sent yesterday, NY AG James urged MSG Entertainment to reverse the policy.

“MSG Entertainment cannot fight their legal battles in their own arenas,” James said in a statement included in a press release from her office on the matter. “Madison Square Garden and Radio City Music Hall are world-renowned venues and should treat all patrons who purchased tickets with fairness and respect. Anyone with a ticket to an event should not be concerned that they may be wrongfully denied entry based on their appearance.”

While use of facial recognition technology is legal in the state of New York, and MSG discloses it uses the technology on notices posted outside its venues, individuals suing MSGE argue the venues’ use goes beyond what is legally allowed. The New York AG’s office requested a response  justifying the policy and detailing attempts to abide by the laws outlawing discrimination and retaliation by Feb. 13.

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todayJanuary 26, 2023

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