An attorney who blocked from entering Madison Square Garden Entertainment-owned venues is applauding new bills being introduced in the New York State Senate and Assembly that would ban sporting events from blocking attorneys–or any other fans–who are deemed corporate adversaries of MSG and its boss James Dolan.
ABC’s Nightline highlighted the high stakes clash with a program that aired at 12:30 AM on Jan. 26.
Dolan, the CEO of MSG has been under fire for booting at least four attorneys from entering Madison Square Garden or Radio City Music Hall in recent months because they work for law firms that are suing MSG. MSG Entertainment owns both venues as well as the New York Knicks and Rangers. In a rare public interview with Fox 5 Good Day New York co-host Rosanna Scotto, Dolan said the politicians are “grandstanding,” and should focus on matters that really concern their constituents.
One of the barred attorneys is solidly on the side of the politicians. “What Dolan is doing has to stop,” said Benjamin Pinczewski, a personal injury attorney from Brooklyn who was blocked from attending a NY Rangers Game with friends on Jan. 10 because he works for a firm that has litigation against MSG Entertainment. Chelsea News and the West Side Spirit reported exclusively on Jan. 13 that Pinczewski was banned from the event that used facial recognition technology to stop him. “He [Dolan] lit a firestorm–for no apparent reason other than that he is a petty and vindictive person.”
Pinczewski said he was not personally working on the suit and believes the facial recognition technology used to ban him took a picture that was scrapped from the law firm’s web site without his permission. He is the fourth known attorney to be barred by the facial recognition software.
The most controversial case of an attorney getting booted involved Kelly Conlon, a 44 year old attorney with Davis, Saperstein & Salomon, who was barred while trying to bring her 9 year old daughter and other members of her Girls Scout troop to see the Rockettes at the Christmas Spectacular at Radio City Music Hall in December. Conlon did not return calls seeking comment.
MSG Entertainment said the attorneys for such firms create an “adversarial environment” and that is why they are banned while the law suits are pending. Dolan said such attorneys would be “welcomed back” once the litigation is ended.
“It’s intended to have a chilling effect,” said Pinczewski. “Nobody else does this, not hospitals, not the city. What if a hospital turned you away from treatment because your law firm has a suit against the hospital?” Pinczewski said his parents are holocaust survivors and he is worried about the dangers of using facial recognition technology by any company or establishment that might not like a particular group. “It’s dangerous. Who knows where it will end,” he said.
Politicians have been quick to react. NYS Senator Brad Hoylman-Sigal who led a press conference outside Madison Square Garden on Jan. 15 blasting Dolan’s used of the technology, has now introduced legislation that would block him from using the technology simply because he regards the person as an adversary. Hoylman-Sigal’s bill is being co-sponsored in the Senate by Liz Krueger and the Assembly by Tony Simone. Hoylman-Sigal’s Senate district and Simone’s district on the West Side of Manhattan both include MSG.
Simone, as the Chelsea News and West Side Spirit first reported exclusively on Jan. 16, was disinvited from attending a Pride Night at a Rangers game scheduled for Friday, Jan. 27 where he was slated to drop the ceremonial first puck. The event is part of the NHL’s outreach program, entitled Hockey is For Everyone. But not, apparently, for politicians who criticize Dolan. Simone told Chelsea News and the West Side Spirit that he was disinvited as soon as Dolan and MSG learned he was joining Senators Hoylman-Sigal, Krueger and other activists at the Jan. 15 press conference.
Both bills actually do not address the tech surveillance issues. Instead, they are intended to be extensions of a 1941 civil rights law that banned Broadway theaters, circuses and other entertainment establishments from blocking critics that gave them bad reviews. “This extends that law to include sporting events,” Hoylman-Sigal said.
”Hopefully Jim will let me see Madonna next year–or whoever else is coming,” said Simone.
“It’s the right thing to do, I’m thrilled it’s happening,” said Pinczewski, who was interviewed for the Nightline segment that was broadcast Thursday Jan. 26 at 12:30 AM. Another attroney, Larry Hutcher, who has had Knicks season tickets since 1976, had them pulled by MSG Entertainment in October when they learned his firm was representing 24 ticket resellers who are suing MSG. Hutcher filed his own lawsuit vs MSG in October in which he says the odds of an attorney at the firm discussing the suit with anyone working at the Garden are infinitesimal. “The odds of an individual plaintiff discussing the subject of the litigation with that M.S.G. employee are astronomical,” his lawsuit contends. “There are better odds of being struck by lightning or the Knicks winning the N.B.A. championship this year.”
Despite the growing firestorm, Dolan and MSG show no sign of backing down. “The fact that these politicians have so courageously taken on the ‘plight’ of attorneys representing ticket scalpers and other money grabbers speaks volumes about their priorities,” MSG said in a statement. “We urge these elected officials to introduce legislation that addresses issues their constituents are actually concerned with rather than focus on amending a poorly worded and misinterpreted 80-year-old law.”
“What Dolan is doing has to stop. He lit a firestorm–for no apparent reason other than that he is a petty and vindictive person.” Attorney Benjamin Pinczewski, who was banned from attending a Rangers game.