A New York State Assemblyman, whose district includes Madison Square Garden and Chelsea, says he was disinvited from an NHL outreach program with the Rangers because he turned up at a press conference with other local politicians and activists who blasted facial recognition technology that James Dolan, the CEO of Madison Square Garden Entertainment is using to boot attorneys whose firms are involved in litigation with his company.
Assemblyman Tony Simone said he was originally invited to attend a Hockey is For Everyone event at the Garden in which the Rangers were being used for a community outreach program by the NHL to help broaden the games appeal.
He was supposed to drop a ceremonial puck at the Jan. 26 game when the Rangers are scheduled to play the Las Vegas Golden Knights and the Rangers had invited members of the LBGTQ community to the game. But he said he was suddenly disinvited on Sunday Jan. 15 about an hour after a press advisory had gone out that noted he was participating in a press conference outside MSG criticizing Dolan and MSG’s use of facial recognition technology to flag attorneys at law firms that are suing the company. His office got a call in which a MSG official told him, “We don’t think now is the right time to do this anymore.”
Simone was quick to call out the MSG Entertainment CEO James Dolan when he got to the press conference with other politicians.
“Come on Jim, don't be so sensitive,” said Simone--whose district includes Chelsea, Hell’s Kitchen, some of the Lincoln Center area, Murray Hill and parts of Midtown. Politicians and activists had gathered outside the Garden to call for an end to the use of facial recognition technology at all the MSG-owned venues.
“Sorry to hurt your feeling Jim,” said Simone sarcastically, “but to use this technology go after perceived enemies is morally wrong.” Simone is believed to be the first politician that MSG Entertainment has signaled out. It is not clear if his face is also on the hit list, since he only appeared on the sidewalk outside the Garden and did not try to enter MSG.
The NHL web site says “Hockey is for Everyone uses the game of hockey--and the League’s global influence--to drive positive social change and foster more inclusive communities.”
But the inclusiveness apparently ends if you criticize the mercurial owner of MSG Entertainment for his use of facial recognition technology.
“Jim Dolan needs to end this practice now,” said Simone of the facial recognition software the MSG boss uses to target and bar attorneys from entering venues.
Since November, at least four attorneys have been asked to leave venues controlled by MSG Entertainment. The latest was Benjamin Pinczewski who, as Straus News publications were were first to report on Jan. 13, was barred by security from entering to watch a Rangers game on Jan. 10 because the Garden said his firm was involved in litigation against the company. MSG Entertainment maintains it is within its legal rights to bar the attorneys until litigation is ended because such attorneys, even if not directly involved in their firms’ suits vs the company and its subsidiaries are in an “adversarial relationship” to the Garden-owned venues.
Pinczewski, a civil rights and personal injury lawyer with Elefterakis, Eleferakis and Panek, became at at least the fourth attorney who has been barred from MSG events after being flagged by facial recognition technology.
The other three known attorneys booted in recent months include:
*Kelly Conlin barred from the MSG-owned Radio City Music Hall’s Christmas Spectacular on Dec. 20 where she was trying to bring her 9 year old daughter and other Girl Scouts to see the Rockettes.
*Alex Majano, whose firm is representing a fan who fell from a Garden skybox during a Billy Joel concert, was barred from a Nov. 5 Knicks vs. Celtics game.
*Nicole Landi, at Burns & Harris, who said she was denied entry to a Mariah Carey concert at MSG because she was told her firm was involved in litigation vs. the Garden.
In addition, five lawyers at Greenberg Law PC were told on November 28 that they were barred from MSG Entertainment events on the same day they filed a suit on behalf of a fan who was sucker punched by another fan after a Rangers game. So far, none of those attorneys are known to have tested the policy and attempted to enter the Garden.
The New York Times on Tuesday reported that MSG Entertainment has sent letters to 90 law firms informing that no lawyers on their staff are welcome at events at any MSG-owned venues.
MSG maintains it has a right to bar attorneys involved in suits againt its corporate entities.
“MSG instituted a straightforward policy that precludes attorneys from firms pursuing active litigation against the Company from attending events at our venues until that litigation has been resolved,” the company said in a statement.
Regarding Simone’s appearance at the press conference on Jan. 15, MSG Entertaiment said,
“We are disappointed he has chosen to side with a small group of attorneys defending ticket scalpers and other money grabbing schemes, rather than honor our LGBTQ community and the underprivileged kids of the Garden of Dreams Foundation at the January 27th Rangers Pride Night game.”
MSG said the banned attorney can come back when the law suits end--which politicians claimed was having a “chilling effect” on opponents who might file suit. “We continue to make clear that impacted attorneys will be welcomed back to our venues upon resolution of the litigation,” MSG Entertainment said.
“To use this technology go after perceived enemies is morally wrong.” Assemblyman Tony Simone, who was disinvited from an NHL event after he criticized MSG.